Preventing chilblains 

The best way to prevent chilblains is to limit your exposure to the cold and try to improve your circulation.

The following advice may help prevent chilblains:

  • stop smoking – nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can make chilblains worse 
  • keep active – this helps improve your circulation
  • wear warm clothes and insulate your hands, feet and legs – wearing long johns, long boots, tights, leg warmers or long socks will help, and it's a good idea to wear a clean pair of socks if you get cold feet in bed
  • avoid tight shoes and boots – these can restrict the circulation to your toes and feet
  • moisturise your feet regularly – this stops them drying out and the skin cracking
  • eat at least one hot meal during the day – this will help warm your whole body, particularly in cold weather
  • warm your shoes on the radiator before you put them on – make sure damp shoes are dry before you wear them; if your feet are already cold, make sure that your shoes are not too hot to avoid causing chilblains
  • warm your hands before going outdoors – soak them in warm water for several minutes and dry thoroughly, and wear cotton-lined waterproof gloves if necessary; if your hands are already cold, make sure not to warm them up too quickly to avoid causing chilblains
  • keep your house well heated – try to keep one room in the house warm and avoid drafts
  • if you are diabetic, regularly check your feet (or ask someone else to do this) – people with diabetes may not be able to feel their feet and could have infected chilblains without realising it

If your skin gets cold, warm it gradually. Heating it up too quickly is one of the main causes of chilblains.

Read more about how to keep warm in very cold weather and looking after your health in winter.

Page last reviewed: 26/11/2013

Next review due: 26/11/2015