Chilblains are associated with cold winter conditions, often worsened by wet weather.
So as I go off to the Cape for a few days I’ll give you some suggestions to protect against ‘winter feet’.
Chilblains affect all age groups and both sexes, but girls and women do seem to suffer more.
Keep your feet warm and dry. Avoid socks with synthetic fibres, that can make your feet sweaty and cold.
Some modern fibres ‘wick away’ sweat, but you can get cold. Try a pair of mohair socks – Visit the Cape Mohair website.
If you are sitting for some time, try wrapping your legs in a loose-fitting blanket(think of the bottom of a sleeping bag).
Do wriggling and waggling exercises to keep the circulation moving in your leg muscles. Don’t sit for long periods, because if you have a sluggish circulation it makes it worse.
STOP SMOKING! The spasm or constriction of your blood arteries from ONE cigarette lasts 6 hours.
Take regular walks in well-fitting shoes. Tight shoes press the blood out of your toes. Thicker sole are important to protect your feet from the cold and wet. Boots are good but high fashion ones often don’t keep your feet warm.
Chilblains are the result of a defective response to a cold stimulus. For example: when you take the chicken out of the deep freeze, the nerves in your fingers send and receive a message which causes the nerves to the blood vessels to shut down to protect the fingers from the cold.
When you have the chicken out on the kitchen worktop and you are back in the normal temperature the reverse messages happens, and you get a bit of a tingling feeling as the blood flow returns to normal.
If this system has a delayed response – for whatever reason – the fingers remain cold, because the blood is lacking oxygen. Soon the body recognises this as abnormal and tries to fix it with an inflammatory response.
This can settle things with just a little swelling and pain in the fingers, but usually this process ends up with red, painful, swollen fingers, which look like cocktail sausages.
In some cases, this process is the result of a significant vascular disease, for example – Raynauds Syndrome(or Phenomenon). If you suffer from this you will know and should be havinr treatment – it is characterised by spontaneous spasm of the blood vessels of the hands – where you get an unexpected cold finger or fingers, at any time of year, but especially in winter.
Treatment for chilblains is difficult and usually centres around prevention. Shoes, socks and footwear as I have said.
There are some medicines prescribed by doctors called Vaso-dilators, but often topical preparations such as Thrombophob or Reparil Gel are tried.
Some Homeopathic preparations include Vitamin A and Nicotinic Acid which act as circulatory stimulants. Getting into a warm bed helps – but don’t sleep with your feet up against a hot water bottle!
As I write this in Hout Bay, I’m happy to report that it has been a beautiful sunny and dry day.
Take care of your pair. No more smoking. Regular exercise. Keep chilblains away this winter.