What are chilblains ('seqi')?
They are small, itchy swellings on the skin that occur as a reaction to cold temperatures.
What do they cause?
They can cause itching, red/purple/dark blue patches, swelling and blistering on your fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
Other common places where chilblains can develop include:
What are the risk factors?
Women are more likely to get chilblains than are children and males.
Smokers are more likely to get chilblains.
Clothing that is tight or exposes skin to the cold can make chilblains worse.
Risk is higher for people who live in an area with high humidity and cold, but not freezing, temperatures - perfect description of Malta at this time of year :(
People with poor circulation tend to be more sensitive to changes in temperature, making them more susceptible to chilblains.
People who are skinny may be at a higher risk of getting chilblains.
Individuals with close family members who have had chilblains before are more likely to suffer from them.
Finally patients with conditions called lupus and Raynaud's disease are more susceptible to suffer from chilblains.
How to prevent them?
To prevent chilblains:
When it is cold, dress appropriately to protect the feet, hands, ears and nose from the cold.
Keep active and in shape to improve circulation.
Do not warm up your body near a heater. Warming up should be a gradual process.
Do not massage, rub or apply direct heat to your body.
1. First and foremost one should try a non medicinal cream such as Akilwinter Chilblains Cream which in my personal experience has helped quite a number of patients. Others include Friocalm, Calamine lotion and Witch hazel to name a few.
2. Although steroid creams are no longer recommended for the treatment (or prevention) of chilblains, topical corticosteroids (e.x. hydrocortisone 1%) can help relieve the itching caused by chilblains. It should be used twice daily for a maximum of 7 days.
3. More potent topical corticosteroids can be prescribed by your gp should the itching not be relieved by hydrocortisone.
4. In severe cases your doctor may prescribe a blood pressure lowering agent called nifedipine that can help open up blood vessels.
When to see a doctor?
When the pain is severe
You suspect you have an infection (usually a white liquid called pus can be seen)
Symptoms are not improving after 1-2 weeks
Tell your doctor if you become prone to chilblains following starting any medication (for example beta blockers can have this effect)