Chilblains occur when the small blood vessels in the extremities are exposed to extreme temperature changes.. The body’s circulatory system is made up of arteries, veins and capillaries. Capillaries are the smallest and most fragile vessels used to transport blood around the body and they are found at the extremities (your fingers and toes). In hot conditions the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin allowing excess heat to be lost into the air cooling the body. In contrast when it is cold, these blood vessels constrict to reduce blood flow to these areas and in turn reduce the amount of heat lost from the body. Due to the fragility of the capillaries these rapid temperature changes can lead to damage of these vessels.
Chilblains - Highett Podiatry


Chilblains often present as red, swollen, itchy patches of skin that are often seen on the extremities such as toes, fingertips, ears and nose. In dancers we commonly see them on the toes due to dancers wearing very little on their feet whilst dancing, especially in the colder climates.


Many chilblains can be treated at home. The most important thing to do is keep the body, especially the extremities nice and warm; in addition to this you can also:

  • Use heat gels such as Deep Heat or Vicks Vapour Rub to increase the circulation around your chilblains
  • Avoid scratching as this can lead to damage of the fragile skin which can then become a port for infection
  • If a break in the skin does occur make sure it is cleansed with an antiseptic such as Betadine and covered with a band aid to protect the area and reduce the risk of infection

If you are unsure about how to manage your chilblains, notice that the tissue becomes infected or limits your ability to dance please consult your podiatrist so that they can help make a specific treatment plan for you

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The information in this resource is general in nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It is not a substitute for medical advice and you should always consult a trained professional practising in the area of medicine in relation to any injury or condition. You use or rely on information in this resource at your own risk and no party involved in the production of this resource accepts any responsibility for the information contained within it or your use of that information.