How To Prevent Chilblains When Working In The Cold

How To Prevent Chilblains When Working In The Cold

Chilblains can be a real problem during the cold winter, especially for those who work outdoors. These painful and itchy skin lesions occur after exposure to cold or damp conditions and if left untreated, can leave sufferers with long-term skin damage. Even though many of us don’t always think about it when working in cold weather, preventing chilblains is a significant health consideration. In this blog post, we’ll provide some great 10 tips on protecting yourself from getting chilblains while keeping warm while doing your job!

What are chilblains?

Chilblains are small, itchy, or painful skin swellings when exposed to damp and cold conditions. They can be red, blue, purple, or black and often form on the toes, fingers, cheeks, or earlobes of someone who has been out in the cold for too long. If left untreated, chilblains can cause long-term skin damage, so taking steps to prevent them is essential.

Who might get chilblains?

Chilblains are much more common in people who work outdoors in cold or damp conditions, particularly those who suffer from low blood circulation. People with diabetes, thyroid issues, or Raynaud’s disease (a condition that causes the extremities to become numb and cold when exposed to the cold) are also at an increased risk.

How long do chilblains last?

Chilblains generally last between three and four weeks but sometimes take longer to heal. It is essential to seek medical treatment if the lesions become infected or don’t improve after a few weeks, as they can cause long-term skin damage.

What are the symptoms of chilblains?

The main symptom of chilblains is an itchy, burning, and/or painful sensation in the affected area. The skin may also feel tender when touched, and there may be redness or swelling around the lesion. In some cases, blisters may form.

Signs and symptoms of chilblains may include:

  • Small, itchy red areas on your skin, often on your feet or hands
  • Possible blistering or skin ulcers
  • Swelling of your skin
  • Burning sensation on your skin
  • Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain

How are chilblains diagnosed?

Chilblains are diagnosed based on the patient’s history, a physical examination and sometimes tests such as skin biopsy. A doctor will look for the telltale signs of chilblains, including redness and swelling in the affected area.

How To Prevent Chilblains

How To Prevent Chilblains When Working In The Cold

Like any other health issue, prevention is key in avoiding chilblains. Here are our 10 top tips for protecting yourself from this condition while working in the cold:

1. Layer Up

The key to keeping warm and preventing chilblains is layering your clothing properly so you can adjust as needed. Choose wool, synthetic blends, or down materials for insulation. Make sure your outermost layer is waterproof and windproof if you’re going to be exposed to the elements.

2. Wear Appropriate Footwear

Proper footwear is essential in preventing chilblains. Choose shoes made for cold weather and waterproof, such as rubber boots or insulated winter boots. Make sure to keep your feet dry and change wet socks as soon as possible.

3. Avoid Smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for chilblains, as it constricts blood vessels and prevents the body from staying warm. If you do smoke, avoid smoking in cold temperatures or immediately after coming inside from the cold.

4. Avoid Caffeine & Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can restrict your blood vessels and make it difficult for your body to regulate its temperature. It’s essential to avoid them if you want to keep warm and prevent chilblains.

5. Take Breaks from the Cold

When working in cold weather, it’s essential to take regular breaks inside a warm building or vehicle so that your body can recover and warm up.

6. Exercise Regularly 

Regular exercise is essential to avoiding chilblains, as it helps keep your body warm and improves circulation. Try to incorporate light exercise into your day if you’re working in the cold for long periods.

7. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can cause your blood vessels to constrict and make it harder for your body to stay warm. Bring a reusable bottle filled with water or hot drinks whenever you’re working in the cold.

8. Soak Your Feet

If you start to feel discomfort from the cold, try soaking your feet in a tub of hot water for up to 10 minutes. This will help restore circulation, ease inflammation, and prevent chilblains.

9. Try Topical Treatments

There are several topical treatments that you can use to soothe chilblains, such as ointments or creams containing menthol or calendula extracts. Apply these throughout the day as needed.

10. Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re regularly exposed to cold temperatures, you must speak with your doctor about any potential risks you may face. Your doctor can advise on any preventative measures you can take and provide further treatment options if needed.

By following these tips, you should be able to prevent chilblains and keep your body warm while working in the cold. However, if you experience any symptoms of this condition, seek medical advice as soon as possible. Chilblains can cause long-term skin damage if left untreated, so getting them treated is essential.  With proper prevention and treatment, you can avoid the discomfort associated with chilblains and get back to work as soon as possible. 

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