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Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T69.1
ICD-9 991.5
DiseasesDB 31219
eMedicine derm/322

Chilblains (/ˈɪlblnz/; also known as pernio and perniosis)[1] is a medical condition that occurs when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity, causing tissue damage. It is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Damage to capillary beds in the skin causes redness, itching, inflammation, and sometimes blisters.[2] Chilblains can be reduced by keeping the feet and hands warm in cold weather, and avoiding extreme temperature changes. Chilblains can be idiopathic, but may also be a manifestation of a serious medical condition that needs to be investigated. A history of chilblains is suggestive of a connective tissue disease (such as lupus). Chilblains in infants, together with severe neurologic disease and unexplained fevers, can be seen in Aicardi–Goutières syndrome, a rare inherited condition.

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Chilblains from excessively icing the feet

The areas most affected are the toes, fingers, earlobes, nose.


With treatment, chilblains usually heal within 7–14 days.


  • Keep area warm, and avoid any extreme temperature changes (including very hot water).
  • Keep affected area dry.[3]
  • Use a topical steroid cream to relieve itch.
  • Nifedipine, a vasodilator, may be used in more severe or recurrent cases.[4]Vasodilation helps reduce pain, facilitate healing and prevent recurrences.[5] It is typically available in an oral pill but can be compounded into a topical formula.
  • Diltiazem, a vasodilator, may also be used.[6]
  • Apply a mixture of friar's balsam and a weak iodine solution.[7]
  • There are anecdotal reports that Vitamin D and calcium supplements may help.[8]
  • Avoid restricting the affected area.[9]


The medieval Bald's Leechbook recommended that chilblains be treated with a mix of eggs, wine, and fennel root.[10]



  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature (including from cold to hot).[7]
  • Wear warm shoes, socks and gloves.[7]
  • Wear a hat and a scarf to protect the ears and the nose.[7]
  • Avoid tight fitting socks/shoes.
  • Place cotton wool between the toes to improve circulation.[7]
  • Recommend soaking in warm water with Epsom salts for 15–20 minutes, 3–4 times a day. Avoid very hot water.


  • Healthy diet, low in inflammatory foods
  • Exercise at least four times a week to improve circulation[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.  [page needed]
  2. ^ Cold Stress: Chilblains. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  3. ^ " - #1 Online Source for Treatments, Prevention, Relief Advice". 
  4. ^ Rustin, M.H.A.; Newton, Julia A.; Smith, N.P.; Dowd, Pauline M. (2006). "The treatment of chilblains with nifedipine: the results of a pilot study, a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study and a long-term open trial". British Journal of Dermatology 120 (2): 267–75. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.1989.tb07792.x. PMID 2647123. 
  5. ^ Simon, T. D.; Soep, JB; Hollister, JR (2005). "Pernio in Pediatrics". Pediatrics 116 (3): e472–5. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2681. PMID 16140694. 
  6. ^ Patra, AK; Das, AL; Ramadasan, P (2003). "Diltiazem vs. nifedipine in chilblains: A clinical trial". Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 69 (3): 209–11. PMID 17642888. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "What are chilblains (pernio)? What causes chilblains?". Medical News Today. 
  8. ^ "The cure for my chilblains is...". 
  9. ^ " - Information, Treatment and Prevention". - Information, Treatment and Prevention. 
  10. ^ Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger August:The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium Little, Brown, 2000 ISBN 0316511579[page needed]

External links[edit]