Chilblains: When Winter Turns Your Hands Black and Blue
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 09, 2023
Winter in the northern part of India can be bone-chilling, and it’s not just the cold that’s affecting us. Have you noticed your hands and feet itching and swelling? If so, you might be dealing with chilblains. But what exactly are chilblains and what causes them?
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Chilblains occur when the skin is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period. The tissue beneath the skin can freeze due to extended exposure to a chilled environment. If the exposure to low temperatures is severe, frostbite can set in. Frostbite typically occurs when there is direct skin contact with freezing objects like metal, ice packs, or dry ice. While frostbite commonly affects toes and fingers, it can also be found on the nose, cheeks, or chin.
Chilblains are more common during the winter season, especially in windy weather and at high altitudes. Dr. Nivedita Dadu, a renowned dermatologist, explains that chilblains occur when the water in the skin freezes, causing damage to cells and soft tissues. Cold temperatures can injure not only the skin but also the muscles, nerves, and joints. Chilblains numb the skin, and severe cases can lead to swelling and uncomfortable blisters.
Hacks to Prevent Chilblains
Preventing chilblains is all about protecting yourself from the cold. Here are some simple hacks to keep in mind:
- Layer up: Layering your body with appropriate clothing helps trap body warmth. Start with a moisture-wicking synthetic material as the first layer, followed by insulating woolen clothing, and finish with a windproof and waterproof outer layer. Make sure the clothes fit snugly.
- Be aware of the weather: Check the forecast and avoid spending extended periods of time in cold weather. Also, avoid direct contact with metal surfaces or water while out in the cold.
- Stay hydrated: Sip on water while you’re outside. Staying hydrated and having regular meals helps maintain body temperature.
- Change out of wet clothes: Wet clothes can intensify the effects of the cold. Change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
- Protect your extremities: Hands and feet are the most susceptible to chilblains, so keep them covered and warm.
- Eat nutritious meals: A well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are essential. Limit alcohol consumption, as it can cause the body to lose heat more quickly.
Home Tricks to Treat Chilblains
If you’re dealing with mild chilblains, you can try some simple first-aid measures at home:
- Elevate the affected body part to reduce swelling.
- Move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss.
- Avoid excessive walking on chilblain toes or feet, if possible.
- Remove wet clothing and constrictive jewelry to improve blood flow.
- Offer warm, non-alcoholic, and non-caffeinated fluids to drink.
- Apply a dry and sterile bandage, placing cotton between any involved fingers or toes to prevent rubbing. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Do not rub the frozen area with snow, as it can cause more tissue damage.
If you notice your limbs turning black and blue this winter, don’t ignore the signs. Chilblains can be a painful experience. Take proper precautions and seek medical help if necessary. Stay warm and stay safe!