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Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T69.1
ICD-9 991.5
DiseasesDB 31219
eMedicine derm/322

Chilblains (also known as pernio and perniosis[1]:25) is a medical condition that is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Chilblains are acral ulcers (that is, ulcers affecting the extremities) that occur when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. The cold exposure damages capillary beds in the skin, which in turn can cause redness, itching, blisters, and inflammation.[2] Chilblains are often idiopathic in origin but can be manifestations of serious medical conditions that need to be investigated. Chilblains can be prevented by keeping the feet and hands warm in cold weather. A history of chilblains is suggestive of a connective tissue disease.



  • Ulceration of the digits and toes
  • Red nose
  • Skin redness
  • Toe skin inflammation
  • Finger skin inflammation
  • Earlobe inflammation


With treatment, chilblains usually heal within 7–14 days.


  • Keep area warm
  • Nifedipine may be used in more severe or recurrent cases.[3] Its vasodilation helps reduce pain, facilitate healing and prevent recurrences.[4]
  • Diltiazem, a newer calcium channel blocker, may also be used.[5]




  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature.
  • Wear gloves and socks.
  • Use warm footwear.
  • Keep hands and feet warm.
  • Avoid tight fitting socks/shoes
  • Place cotton wool between the toes to improve circulation


  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise to improve circulation
  • High doses of vitamin K
  • Avoid alcohol before going out in snow


The medieval Bald's Leechbook recommended that chilblains be treated with a mix of eggs, wine, and fennel root.[6]

See also


  1. ^ James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.  
  2. ^ Cold Stress: Chilblains. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  3. ^ Rustin M, Newton J, Smith N, Dowd P (1989). "The treatment of chilblains with nifedipine: the results of a pilot study, a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study and a long-term open trial". Br J Dermatol 120 (2): 267–75. PMID 2647123.  
  4. ^ Simon T, Soep J, Hollister J (2005). "Pernio in pediatrics". Pediatrics 116 (3): e472–5. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2681. PMID 16140694.  
  5. ^ Patra AK, Das AL, Ramadasan P. (2003). "Diltiazem vs. nifedipine in chilblains: A clinical trial". Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 69 (3): 209–11. PMID 17642888.  
  6. ^ Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger August:The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium Little, Brown, 2000 ISBN 0316511579
  • Habits of Good Society: A Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen (New Edition), Virtue and Co,. Ltd, 26, Ivy Lane Paternoster Row. 1890.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHILBLAINS (or Kibe; Erythema pernio), a mild form of frostbite, affecting the fingers or toes and other parts, and causing a painful inflammatory swelling, with redness and itching of the affected part. The chief points to be noticed in its aetiology are (1) that the lesions occur in the extremities of the circulation, and (2) that they are usually started by rapid changes from heat to cold or vice versa. The treatment is both general and local. In the general treatment, if a history of blanching fingers (fingers or hands going "dead") can be obtained, the chilblains may be regarded as mild cases of Raynaud's disease, and these improve markedly under a course of nitrites. Cardiac tonics are often helpful, especially in those cases where there is some attendant lesion of the heart. But the majority of cases improve wonderfully on a good course of a calcium salt, e.g. calcium lactate or chloride; fifteen grains three times a day will answer in most cases. The patient should wash in soft tepid water, and avoid extremes of heat and cold. In the local treatment, two drugs are of great value in the early congestive stage - ichthyol and formalin. Ichthyol, 10 to 20% in lanoline spread on linen and worn at night, often dispels an attack at the beginning. Formalin is equally efficacious, but requires more skill in its use. It can be used as an ointment, io to 50% for delicate skins, stronger for coarser skins. It should be replaced occasionally by lanoline. If the stage of ulceration has been reached, a paste made from the following prescription, spread thickly on linen and frequently changed, soon cures: - Hydrarg. ammoniat. gr. v., ichthyol 111x, pulveris zinci oxidi 3 iv, vaseline ss.

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