Chilblains are itchy, swollen and painful lumps on the skin that form after exposure to the cold. They are caused by changes in the blood vessels in response to the cold. Chilblains most commonly affect the fingers and toes but can also occur on the nose and earlobes.

Symptoms of chilblains include:

  • red, blue or white patches of discoloration on the skin
  • swelling and pain
  • intense itching
  • dry, split and cracked skin

Chilblains can appear quickly after exposure to cold and usually go away within a few weeks. In most cases, chilblains don’t cause any permanent damage, but in more serious cases, they can become infected or develop into an ulcer.

You are more likely to develop chilblains if you:

  • are sensitive to the cold and changes in temperature
  • have poor circulation
  • are elderly
  • are sedentary
  • are a teenage girl
  • are underweight

You can reduce your risk of developing chilblains by:

  • dressing warmly in cold weather, including wearing several layers of clothing, gloves, warm socks, a scarf and hat
  • avoiding getting wet on cold days
  • avoiding sudden changes in temperature
  • not smoking, as this can affect your circulation
  • exercising regularly to increase blood flow
  • wearing comfortable and well-fitting shoes

If you develop chilblains, use a calamine lotion or witch hazel to relieve the itching and avoid scratching the skin, which can further damage the skin and may lead to infection. If your chilblains are very painful, see your doctor, who might prescribe cortisone creams to reduce the itching and swelling or medications to increase blood flow to the affected areas.

For more information, visit Health Direct Australia: Chilblains


  1. Health Direct Australia: Chilblains
  2. Better Health Channel: Chilblains
  3. Arthritis Australia: Chilblains
  4. Nyssen A, Benhadou F, Magnée M, André J, Koopmansch C, Wautrecht JC. Chilblains. Vasa. 2020 Mar;49(2):133-140. doi: 10.1024/0301-1526/a000838. Epub 2019 Dec 6. PMID: 31808732.
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