Chilblains, a condition also known as pernio, occurs when the small blood vessels in your skin become inflamed due to cold temperatures. Creating red, swollen skin blisters, chilblains are actually considered acral ulcers, which are skin ulcers that affect the extremities.1,2,3
While chilblain can be quite painful, it isn’t a serious condition and it typically clears itself in a few weeks, or as the weather warms up. Because chilblains are triggered by a drop in temperature, people who suffer from this skin condition typically experience seasonal recurrences each year. Additionally, because chilblains cause skin ulcers, there is a risk of infection. Protecting your extremities from the cold is the best way to prevent chilblain.1
What Causes Chilblains?
While it’s clear that chilblain is triggered by cold temperatures, it remains unclear what causes it in certain people. When temperatures drop and the extremities become cold, blood vessels near the surface of the skin shrink. As the body warms up, the blood vessels expand, with smaller ones expanding more quickly than larger ones. This expansion of smaller blood vessels causes a bottleneck, possibly leading blood to leak into tissues, causing the skin to blister.1
People with poor circulation are much more likely to experience chilblains, including those who suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon. Other risk factors for developing chilblain include:
- Wearing tight clothing in cold temperatures that constricts blood vessels
- Being a child, underweight or male—all of which are more likely to develop chilblain
- Living in a cold climate with high humidity from November to April
Chilblain symptoms affect the extremities such as the fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose and ears.1,2 If you experience chilblains, you can expect the following symptoms to affect any of your extremities:
- Small, red blisters or skin ulcers
- Itchy red patches of skin
- Skin swelling and pain
- A burning sensation on the skin
- Skin changing color from red to dark blue
Natural Remedies and Herbs for Chilblains
Natural remedies for chilblains include:
- Garlic - Garlic is a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic remedy that can help reduce skin itchiness and inflammation and prevent infection from chilblains.
- Ginkgo Biloba - Ginkgo biloba is an herbal remedy for improving circulation and can help prevent chilblains.
- Cayenne Pepper - Taking cayenne pepper can boost circulation and prevent and heal chilblains.
- Oregano Oil - As a natural anti-inflammatory, oregano oil can help to reduce skin inflammation caused by chilblains and can heal blisters that have formed.