by Daisy

Thank you for visiting Little House in the Suburbs. If you like what you see, please SUBSCRIBE.

I got ’em.

Every winter.

It sounds like something from days of yore, like dyspepsia or biliousness, but it’s a real thing.  In reaction to cold temperature, fingers, toes, and even ears and noses can swell and become red, painful, and itchy.  I only have it on my fingers and toes.  So far.

It hurts and itches at the same time, so you will find me scratching my fingers, growling over them, and announcing to whomever has the misfortune to be within earshot, “Chilblains! Aaaahh! I got the chilblains!”

I am so pleasant to be around in the winter.  Between the chilblains and the dearth of gardening activities, I can be a real dream.

It doesn’t usually get bitter cold here, which may be part of the problem. It’s a teasing sort of climate, where it can be 72 degrees in December (like this week), or 25 degrees for a week straight (seldom, but it does happen occasionally).  My point is, I never know when to take winter seriously so I haven’t learned how to dress properly for the cold. I don’t have a mitten strategy, sort of like how we don’t know how to drive in the snow down here and NO ONE has tire chains or snow shovels.

Besides, when it’s cold here, it’s also cold in our 80 year-old house and I am not comfortable cooking and cleaning and so on with gloves on.  Sometimes, the gloves have to come off and BOOM.  Chilblains.

I’ve heard of anti-chilblain creme, but I’ve been assured on various forums that they don’t work. I take various herbal tinctures that are supposed to help improve circulation and warm me up, but I still get them.

I need help from you cold climate folks, you drafty garret people, those of you who grew up building underground snow tunnels in your front yards.

What do you do to keep warm???

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Colleen November 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Have you thought about sticking a couple of handwarmers (and footwarmers) in your pockets on those occasional days when the temps refuse to climb? You could try using some homemade ones. They are just beanbags made of natural wool or cotton and filled with rice or ceramic pie weights. Pop them into the microwave for 60 seconds and they can keep your pockets and fingers toasty for an hour or so. Or you can use the disposable ones from the store to stay a bit warmer for up to 10 hours at a time.
For your toes, be sure you are wearing wool, or better yet, alpaca socks. They are much better insulators than cotton, nylon or Lycra.

Izzy November 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm

This condition is caused by cold and humidity. If you have this problem, be careful with severe change in temperature. -So, you can´t use hot water in the cold. Your house has to be warm. You have to dress for the climate… mits, etc. otherwise you are in trouble.

Kat November 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm

A hot cup of coffee in my hands at all times, except when my hands are on the goats’ udders while I’m milking.

Jody November 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I know this is going to sound weird, but my mom swears by alfalfa supplements as a cure for not handling the cold well. (She was born & raised in North Dakota!)

Maggie November 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Ack, that looks painful. I get the opposite when my extremities get too cold, all the blood drains out of my fingers and toes and they look like they belong to a wax dummy. I have to warm them under running water.
I was going to use the word bilious this week to describe how disgusting I’ve felt being 8 months pregnant with gastro but figured no one would know what I was talking about!

A.D. November 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I have lived in Southern California my whole life, so I know nothing of these chilblains, but it looks so uncomfortable! But your comment on circulation got me thinking. Have you had your Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D levels checked? Mine were once very very low and caused all sorts of issues, including circulation. It might be worth a quick blood test and see if you’ve got enough in your system.

Turned out for me, B12 pills didn’t do the trick, so now I give myself a shot once a week. Oddly enough, you get used to it. I feel a whole lot better and it’s worth it!

Just food for thought.

Sarahs November 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Well being a northerner (from Michigan), we use wool socks to keep feet warm. Gloves for the hands and hats for the heads lol. But as someone said above the hand Warner’s work great. I also swear by alfalfa. I also make sure my house is at a warm temp during day and a bit cooler at night. I get the opposite. My hands lose the feeling and go numb but no swelling or redness. I have to warm them under Luke warm water then let water go warmer as hands thaw. I also always keep my homade lemon rose body butter on hand to rub in and I think I am going to add some herbs that help with pain such as liquid arnica. This way I can keep some of the pain down. But really there isn’t really one thing that works. It is different for everyone. But up north we do make sure we leave extra clothes etc in car because it could be 80 one minute then drop to 40 the next! Lol

kathy November 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

i don’t have chilblains yet. but i can’t tolerate cold on my extremities. my cold hands and feet chill me to the bone. my fix is to keep my core and limbs warm at all times, even if it means i have sweaty pits. this prevents my cold toes and fingers from freezing me, and they aren’t as cold either! bourbon does the trick in a jiff.
-kathy, misplaced floridian loving life in idaho

kathy November 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm

though i was thinking of sweaters and multiple layers when i first wrote!

Gaëlle December 1, 2012 at 4:27 am

Chilblains drive me really crazy, I get them too. It is when they warm up that they really hurt because the blood is back in the fingers/toes and with it, pain sensations, itch, etc. So I find the best way to avoid chilblains is to try and keep my fingers and toes warm as much as possible. Socks should never be too tight, and ideally, toe socks. Mine are made from a blend of alpaca and cotton, superb.
I wear alpaca fingerless gloves and they are superb, I can still craft with them and play the guitar, and do many other things.
If the fingers get cold and you touch something even slightly warmer/hotter, that is when chilblains appear, so gaps in temperatures are to be avoided.
Now, this is NOT practical, especially when cooking or washing things or yourself.
Watch out when having a bath or shower especially.

But there IS a solution!! Hurray!! Put your hands or feet under a very cold running tap (or dip them in a cold water basin, as cold as it gets, that’s the most important part, ideally, snow), then dip them in hot water for just a few seconds, and then again, alternate for two minutes or more. It feels great, it won’t aggravate the chilblains or give you any but it will get the blood going, and that is crucial.
It is crucial in order to avoid chilblains but also in order to heal them. Even if it hurts more when they are warm, you really need to warm them up because the tissues need the blood circulating in order to heal.
I hope this helps, that is the only thing that works for me and I have tried everything, been getting them since age 4 and now 29!!
One last thing : sugar and grains make me feel much colder end therefore perpetuate the problem. The less I eat them the less chilblains I get. Also socks and gloves should always be extra dry, never damp!
Take care and thanks for the lovely website

Patricia December 1, 2012 at 5:12 am

Hello, I live in Portugal, and altough the climate here is moderate, we still have cold winters 🙂 I don’t suffer from chilblains, but lot’s of people do. Since I was a child I listened to people saying that you could do a “treatment”. Get a basin with cold water, and another with hot water, and alternate putting your hands in the water. Do that several times, and use a good hand cream after each session.

Meridith December 1, 2012 at 5:43 am

Silk long underwwear! It’s the best. You won’t want to take it off…

Judy December 1, 2012 at 6:22 am

Silk long underwear and leg warmers bunched up around your ankles will help you with better circulation to your feet. Layers of clothing on your upper body will help, too. Also, consider small, easy to digest meals so your body doesn’t have to spend as much of its energy on digestion (hot soup is always lovely, hot cereals, too). Agreed that wearing gloves in the house is not ideal, but a knit hat will hold in a lot of your body heat.
Someone on Facebook posted the following, which might be helpful:
Foods that eliminate inflammation — turmeric, tart cherries, broccoli, pineapple, spinach, avocado, onions, garlic, nuts, seeds, berries.
Foods that cause inflammation — margarine, sugar, fast foods, gluten, meat, eggs, dairy.
Good luck, I know how uncomfortable it feels to have this problem!

Sharon December 1, 2012 at 6:44 am

Try taking cayenne capsules daily. Not only is it excellent for your heart & circulation, but it warms you up from the inside. Hope this helps you as much as it does me!

EMME December 1, 2012 at 7:00 am

Layers are really the trick. I live in NH and although my children laugh at me for being cold in 75 degree weather, I know what it takes to stay warm. If my core is warm, generally the rest of my body stays warm. Layers could be the answer for you too since you never know how warm it will get. Just peel a layer until you are comfortable. My nose and hands are usually what gets cold. I have to have layers in order for them to stay warm.

Vickey December 1, 2012 at 7:36 am

Splurge and buy yourself a pair of fine Italian leather gloves. Wear them like your second skin whenever you’re outdoors, driving the car, etc. I live in Minnesota and pull mine out every fall and wear them until mid-spring. Use them regardless of the weather on any particular day. Of course, if you have work to do outside use work gloves, but always keep your hands covered. The thin leather helps with dexterity. Feet; soft cotton sox, then wool over sox. Also do not let your hands get wet ever. Dry them quickly, use hand warmers afterwards to return circulation. Hope this helps. It’s how I cope.

Judith December 1, 2012 at 7:40 am

Are you from North Texas…. you described our weather to a T. We heat our 1700 sq foot house with only a wood burning stove, so the main living areas are toasty warm (or we have a throw at the ready on the couch) or I wear a sweater or sweatshirt. Uggs boots and gloves when I go out. But as you’ve described… sometimes you start out on an outing all bundled up and end up with these clothes in the seat beside you in your car. Uggs or wool socks are the best, if my feet are warm, then my whole body is warm.

Heather C. December 1, 2012 at 8:26 am

Definately make those microwavable hand warmers Colleen mentioned. I use fleece scraps and rice. If the humidity level in your house is very high, a dehumidifier might help. If your hands are cold, like freezing cold, don’t put them straight in to hot water (like to do dishes or taking a shower), work the temp up slowly, less stress on the tissues which might help prevent the chillblains in the first place (my grandmother makes this claim- I’ve never seen her have them, but then, this might be why, I don’t know).

Mostly, we dress in layers when its really cold, and try not to do anything that involves temperature shock.

Karen December 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

If you have seen a doctor and they can not explain it, I would HIGHLY suggest you see if there is a Naturopathic Doctor in your area who can give you an Iridology exam. They take a look at the iris of your eye, which is a reflection of anything going on within your body. They then treat with natural herbs. Sounds like hocus pocus, but 3 in my family have had it done and it is AMAZING how accurately they pinpoint things that the docs do not pick up. With all the natural ways you love the earth around you, I think this would be right up your alley. You may never go back to an M.D. again!

Raven December 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

I second the leather gloves if you’re going to be outdoors. If your indoors is cold, why not try fingerless gloves for typing, etc.? You’d be surprised how much they do to preserve your circulation. (Why do you think Tevya wears them for all of “Fiddler on the Roof”?) Also the idea mentioned about carrying around a hot drink works, too.

Andrea December 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

Keep yourself well hydrated. It really does help. You can try hand warmers in your pockets, but my grandmother used to give my dad hot potatoes to put in his pockets when he went to work, and he would have them for lunch. Wrap them in foil and a layer of cotton to keep the foil from burning you. Also, before you put on gloves make sure you put a little oil on your hands to seal in the moisture. I always forget to grab my gloves so I have a cheap pair in the car too for those “It wasn’t cold when I left…” moments.
the worst time for me is at night. My feet get so cold it wakes me up at night. A friend suggested putting on loose fitting 100% wool socks right before bed and putting a hot water bottle down by my toes in the bed. My husband is so grateful that I do this! I tried telling him that keeping my tootsies warm in bed was part of the marriage deal, but he’s not buying it :).
Incidentally, putting your feet or hands in and out of cold water, though psyclogically difficult to do the first time, actually does work. Being well adjusted –having a good chiropractor helps too. Your spinal positioning can impede proper nerve functioning and it can affect the chill in your extremeties. I have had less probelms when I am properly adjusted.

erum December 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm

try and eat 1 or2 hand full of mix nuts every day they really keep u warm. in

AuntiePatricia December 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

hi, ivory. do you want to treat the symptoms or the cause? i used to have cold hands and feet and not be able to sleep from it – all my life. and i have reversed that condition. do you want to go all the way to the cause? if so, you might want to know this: remember all those cute pictures of what fruits and vegetables resemble body parts and – seemingly amazingly – they are also good for those same body parts they resemble? i finally figured out which food is good for the capillaries that feed the extremities.

i ate ‘raw’ for several years since 2003. it seemed pretty intuitive that i should eat raw in the summertime, but interestingly, when it would start getting cold, i’d think that i needed to switch from raw food to cooked. i’d made soups and my tummy would be happy and warm, but my hands and feet, fingers and toes got COLD again. i finally figured out that animals didn’t seem to suffer from the cold… the deer just kept walking around as if it was summer. so i went back to ‘raw’ again in the winter and my hands and feet were WARM again. now i am thinking that it is the GREENS… dark, green, leafy vegetables that love the cold also make my body ok in the cold. look at a kale leaf – there is a main vein, but then there are lots of little capillaries that go all the way to the ends of the leaves.

i am not certain that cooked greens will behave the same as raw greens, but i know that you can make raw greens as delicious – actually they are more delicious – as cooked. there is something called “massaging” the greens. and it can be done with your hands or even with rice paddles or in your food processor if you have a dough-kneading paddle for it. you just work the greens until they are soft, as if they have been cooked. or you can slice them into ribbons and marinate them in olive oil and lemon juice and salt – maybe with sliced onion or garlic – for a couple of hours before dinner (i can eat an entire bouquet of collards or kale prepared in this way).

at any rate, i hope your chilblains go away and i hope that we all can soon grow organic food forests all over the globe so that we can have kale and chard and collards and parsley, etc growing right outside, ready to pick at any time.

on my way out of my house, i often pick a sprig of parsley and chew it on my way to a meeting or the store… just remember to check your teeth in the mirror before you leave the car. 🙂

Theresa Finnegan December 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm

We got chilblains when we lived in England. We learned that once you get them you sort of have a tendency to get them again, so you’re always going to have to be careful with your hands and feet. It is Very Important not to warm up your hands or feet too fast, like running hot water over them or getting them right up to the fireplace/heater when they are really cold. Doing that will cause chilblains in the first place, and bring them out every year after if you have already had them. If your extremities get too cold, your own body heat is the best way to warm them (hands under your armpits, foot on the opposite leg). Otherwise, lukewarm water works very well.

Maggie December 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm


Chilblains? I have Raynaurd’s it causes my fingers and feet then it moves up my hands, legs and face turn first white, with longer exposure blue than black. Swelling and stiffness pain and itching the fluid freezes in my joints. My oldest has it too. We moved from Northeastern Michigan, to Tennessee. It isn’t quite enough but better than it was. Protection from the cold is key and not an easy task.

Holly December 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

I never suffered from chillblains until I came to live in England. The weather can be variable here too, so I try my best be prepared. It’s a constant battle during cool/cold weather. I keep mittens and gloves everywhere- in the car, my purse, my craft bag, my coat pockets- and put them on as soon as I feel the cold on my fingers all year long as even the summers can be chilly here. And wear socks and slippers in the house as well as 2 pairs of socks if I’m going to be out in the cold for a few hours (my son’s rugby games in winter *sigh*) Other tactics are I moisturise after every hand wash and/or when the skin on my hands feels tight, and drink loads of water. Good luck.

Leah December 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Hello, I live in MO, you guys haven’t ever heard of cold urticaria? Its an allergy to cold. Take some antihistimines before your in the cold. See if that helps. And you should definitely take vitamin b’s and plenty of fluids and moisturize daily before going to bed. Keeps your hands looking young.

Sheri December 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I have therapeutic grade A essential oils that can help with your condition. If interested, come visit Sheri’s Essential Oils on Face book. private message me … I have a recipe that will help you.

Blessings to you,


George December 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Soundls like it could be Raynauds Syndrome.

Daisy December 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

George–I’ve had that, too, occasionally. But this is different.

Ben December 12, 2012 at 6:07 am

Lots and lots of layers is all I can suggest! Double up gloves and socks and thermal underwear. Looks so painful, hope it clears up a bit.

Daisy December 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks to everyone for your helpful suggestions. I’m wearing mittens as I type this, they are surprisingly easy to work in. I’ve found lots of wool sweaters at the thrift store to cut into warm things (including these mittens), and am gearing up for the cold weather after a week in the 70’s has cleared up my fingers. I hope to prevent future occurrences with your suggestions!

AuntiePatricia December 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm

As a child and most of my adulthood, I had cold hand and cold feet. I would lie awake nights unable to sleep due to my icy feet. It wasn’t until I began eating raw vegan that my feet ceased to keep me awake.

Diana December 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I was just reading ‘The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies’ by C. Norman Shealy MD, PhD,and came across a treatment for chilblains. Mustard oil. Mustard, Sinapis alba, and Brassica nigra were listed. Don’t know why, but it seems like it might be a harmless thing to try…if you know where to get mustard oil. I have a flaxseed pillow I made with a scrap of flannel. Heat it in the microwave like the rice bags. I like it a bit more than the rice because it’s a moist heat and it cools very slowly. My feet won’t let me sleep until I warm them every night for about 30 minutes.

Ann Juma-Stephenson December 17, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Hi-your fingers look just like mine look every Nov-April! They get swollen, hot, irritated, itchy & painful. I also have raynauds, fibromayaliga & bursitis. I have been seeing a rhuematologist & he isnt so helpful with any of these issues. I am so frustrated since I am basically losing function of my hands most of the winter. I live in NH & do all the precautionary things to keep warm, I eat a low inflammatory diet & take omega 3, vit d, niacin, cinnamon & turmeric. I have asked several drs about chilblains & they say that’s not what I have. 2 things against my cold hands (& sometimes toes)- Our home is cold (heating is expensive) & I love to be in nature year round.
If you have any new information to share I would love to hear it. I hope your situation has improved.

Daisy December 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

Ann Juma-Stephenson–So far this year I haven’t had an “attack.” I’m not sure why, but it may be because our furnace is working a bit better this year. It has certainly been cold. You probably know this, but it’s said that the condition occurs when the hands go from cold to hot in a short span. I used to come in from the cold with frozen fingers and toes and run them under warm water or stick them right up to the woodstove, but I now think that was making it worse. I made some mittens sort of like these: I find the best procedure is to make sure my hands are nice and warm before I go outside, prewarm the mittens themselves, and then put them on right before I leave the house. Hand warmers like rice bags heated in the microwave help prolong the heat a little, too. Of course that isn’t much help if I have to use my hands much once I’m outside; mittens aren’t made for gardening! I’ve never tried any of the herbal salves recommended for chilblains (unusual for me, I know) but knowing how severe it can get, I don’t believe it would be much of a cure anyway. If I do try them, I’ll report back. Hope you get some relief!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: