Chilblains are also called ‘pernio’ or ‘perniosis’ and describe a condition often mistaken for frostbite. These are acral ulcers – ulcers affecting the fingers and toes – which cause redness and swelling when those extremities are exposed to the cold. This is due to damage to the capillary beds inside the skin which cause the symptoms.
Often when the individual is exposed to warmth the symptoms actually worsen rather than subsiding, and though the individual cases are often idiopathic arising spontaneously, they are generally associated with poor circulation and potentially connective tissue disease (a disease which affects the collagen or elastin and which thus causes inflammation in the skin and ligaments). They might also be indicative of a number of dangerous underlying conditions, so it’s important to consult a doctor so such causes can be ruled out.
Home Remedies – Short Term
There are also various things you can do to treat the problem both in the short term and the long term. To treat the immediate symptoms of chilblains it is important to warm up the hands and this can be achieved by putting on gloves, rubbing the hands together and breathing warm air onto them, wrapping them in a scarf or other clothing, running them under warm water, or even placing them in your mouth if you don’t have access to any of those things.
While you might be tempted to drink a warming sherry or even a mug of tea, neither of these things is a good idea, as both alcohol and caffeine are ‘vasoconstrictors’ meaning they will shrink your blood vessels and thus make circulation to the fingers more difficult. Holding a warm mug though is a good idea so consider a hot chocolate which will also be nicely soothing.
If you were to seek medical intervention then Nifedipine might be administered which is a vasodilator meaning it expands the blood vessels. As this is an article about home remedies though, I shall recommend you eat a warm meal with lots of garlic which is also a vasodilator.
Home Remedies – Long Term
One of the ways you can reduce incidences of chilblains is to improve your circulation. To this end there is a lot you can do at home to help reduce the problem. The first area to target is your diet, and if you are eating lots of fatty foods then this needs to stop (as fat leaves deposits around the blood vessels which can restrict blood flow and so lead to an increased blood pressure). At the same time you should increase your intake of fibrous foods such as fruits (with the skins attached), nuts, seeds, grains and whets. Because fibers aren’t broken down as thoroughly by the digestive process this means that they will be able to pass through the circulatory system in a mostly whole fashion, and thus ‘sweep’ through the system clearing the veins and arteries of debris which can increase blood pressure. Drinking lots of water will also help to reduce blood pressure and improve circulation.
On top of this you should also engage in regular exercise. This will further help to improve your immune system by strengthening your heart and by getting your body to essentially practice supplying various areas of the body with blood and nutrients. You should also combine this exercise with a lower intake of carbohydrates which will result in weight loss, thereby further improving your circulation.