Chilblains (Pernio)

Our peripheries are prone to injury caused by exposure to cold. This is so because the peripheries are supplied by small blood vessels, which may contract when the temperatures are very less. This affects circulation leading to injury.

Chilblains is the term used when a peripheral area exposed to cold is suddenly warmed. It is also known as pernio or perniosis.

Sudden warming may make the region red, itchy or even swelled. In extreme cases, blisters may be seen over the affected area. These blisters may ulcerate to form wounds.

Commonly affected areas include the ears, nose, toes and the fingers.


Chilblains are caused due to severe exposure to cold temperatures. This may include working with cold water, as during cleaning or being exposed to cold winds.

Not everyone gets chilblains. There are certain factors that make you prone to such injuries.

The first is your personal body makeup. Some individual s have a good peripheral circulation, while some do not. Those who have a poor blood supply in their peripheries are prone to chilblains.

Further more, if you are malnourished, you may get chilblains easily.

Exposure to cold is a direct cause. If you keep your body ares covered, you are less likely to be affected by such injuries.

Common Complaints

The affected part of the body becomes red and slightly swollen. It may itch. If left untreated , the swelling may increase and small blisters may erupt there.

Blisters may ulcerate to form wounds. These ulcers are difficult to treat due to limited blood supply in the region. They tend to get infected, further aggravating the problem.

Managing a Chil Blain

If you get chilblains, you need to apply topical anti inflammatory ointments over it. Apply the medicine liberally and regularly, till the injury subsides. Any delay in action can lead to ulcer formation there.

Sometimes, vasodilator medicines are prescribed to open up or relax the blood vessels of the peripheries.

If you have blisters or ulcers, antibiotics may be applied locally over the affected areas. This is to arrest infections there.

If topically applied medicines do not work, oral antibiotics need to be given.

Antihistaminics can be given to alleviate itching.

Keep your nails trimmed. This is to avoid scratching if you get the urge to itch. Too much of scratching may lead to wound formation there. Such wounds take very long to heal.


Preventing chilblains is the best part of management. It is simple and includes covering the peripheries well when the temperatures are low.

  • Wear proper socks, gulfs and scarves/caps during winter season.
  • Keep your skin well moisturized by applying emollients.
  • When you note the first reaction to cold, which may be redness in the area, double cover the area to cut off cold exposure there.

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