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Chilblains are small, itchy swellings on the skin that occur as a reaction to cold temperatures. They affect the body’s extremities, such as the toes, fingers, heels, ears and nose. Chilblains are uncomfortable but can be prevented.

Chilblains can be:

  • acute (short-term), developing within 12-24 hours after exposure to the cold and getting better after one to two weeks if you keep warm
  • chronic, lasting for a minimum of five months a year for the past three years and causing persistent sores that can lead to scarring

Who is affected?

Chilblains can occur at any age but are more common in children and elderly people. The condition affects women more than men. Certain people, such as people with poor circulation, are susceptible to chilblains .

Chilblains are common in northern Europe, where damp, cold weather is usual in winter. They are less common in countries with extremely cold winters, because the air is drier and people have homes and clothing that conserve heat better.


Chilblains are usually self-limiting, which means they get better on their own after a few weeks. However, while they disappear during warmer weather, they may return during cold seasons.

Chilblains do not respond well to treatment, but there are ways to prevent them

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