Disclaimer: The following advice is meant for educational and informative purposes only. If you are suffering with an chilblains or a circulatory pathology, please see a licensed healthcare practitioner.
Chilblains is a condition in which the toes or fingers, sometimes both, develop itchiness, swelling and discoloration. Chilblains typically occur when the feet or hands have been warmed too quickly after exposure to prolonged cold conditions. The pathogenesis is similar to how pipes burst during freezing weather. The extreme cold creates stagnation, and this pressure puts stress on the vasculature. Subsequently, if significant heat is applied suddenly, as in the case of a hot bath or the heat of a strong fire, then this can put even more stress on the cutaneous circulation. The heat can injure the skin, and the toes or fingers might be too numb to register the pain from overheating. As the cold hands or feet are warmed too quickly, vascular ruptures and inflammatory responses occur. This results in the itchy lesions associated with Chilblains.
When the weather is very cold, our body tends to send the majority of blood to our viscera and core. As the limbs are warmed, the blood flows back into the fingers and toes. Even without cold weather, a person can have poor circulation that inhibits the flow of blood to the extremities. For this reason, chilblains can occur in some people, even in the absence of cold weather. Additionally, if you have a history of injury to the foot or ankle, or conditions like diabetes, the circulation might be naturally impaired, thus creating a propensity toward such ailments as chilblains.
Some people recently mentioned that COVID-19 is associated with chilblains like afflictions. According to research, there was actually no correlation between chilblains and COVID, except for a single doctor who tested positive. So, try not to panic or presume you have a deathly virus, if you get chilblains.
The researchers, therefore, conclude that these patients were not infected with COVID-19. Instead, the two events may be linked in some other way. For instance, the lockdown may have led to lifestyle changes that may have increased the risk of chilblains, such as not going to work and increased sedentary lifestyle activities.Dr. Liji Thomas, MD
If the chilblains have suppurated or become open sores, it is a good idea to visit a doctor for investigation of potential infections, and to acquire antibiotic creams.
Though there are complex etiologies and differentiations for every individual’s chilblains, the cure consistently centers around mobilizing blood flow to bring oxygen and nutrients to the injured skin. This can be achieved with self-massage of the foot and toes. Using an oil, like castor oil or olive oil, is highly recommended. The oil can help hydrate and lubricate the tissues of the skin that were damaged. Oils often have antibacterial and anti fungal effects, too. This can help prevent potential infections of the tissue.
Techniques like Acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina, cupping and guasha are well known to reduce blood stagnation, release inflammation and improve oxygenation of tissues. I utilized these techniques directly on the afflicted foot. The toes were sore and achey to the touch, but symptoms reduced with consistent work and treatment. I did this about twice a day, and the symptoms resolved within a week. While some discomfort is normal to be felt during these procedures, you should avoid overstimulating the skin. It is better to do gentle rubbing of the skin surface, to invigorate the blood flow, rather than strong deep tissue work or acupressure. I highly recommend finding a licensed acupuncturist to help you in your recovery~
I used my own home made salve consisting of Frankinense and Myrrh, and this was a great help to the pain and discomfort. If you’re interested in it; I’ve listed it on my Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/jacobsapothecary
It reduced my itching, and helped the swelling go down. I definitely recommend it in your recovery! It makes a good massage oil for the toes, and it smells pleasantly fragrant. Again, you can find it here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/jacobsapothecary
In addition to those techniques, herbal formulae can help a lot. Formulae like Juan Bi Tang or Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan can help warm and improve circulation to the extremities. These formulae can also be added to foot baths with your favorite oil, for a very soothing experience. Your local acupuncturist can help find a good herbal formula for you, to help treat and prevent chilblains.
Things you should avoid are exposing the fingers or toes to extreme temperatures. Try to always wear socks during cold weather, and do not walk bare foot on icy, cold surfaces. If you feet or hands are exposed to cold for long periods, try to warm them gradually. Do not put them into super hot water immediately. It is better to start lukewarm, and work your way up, so there’s no shock to the cutaneous tissues.
It is likely that most people will passively heal from chilblains, so long as the weather warms. However, in more severe cases, they can linger and become a bigger issue. These techniques could help prevent chronic symptoms from arising, and even potentially reverse damage and symptoms that are lingering. If you are struggling with chilblains, try these techniques to help your toes and fingers heal. If you find there’s no improvements, make sure to visit a trusted healthcare practitioner that can help you.