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Chilblains are small itchy, red swellings on the skin, which can become increasingly painful, can swell and then dry out leaving cracks in the skin which expose the foot to the risk of infection.

They occur on the toes, particularly the smaller ones, fingers, the face, especially the nose, and the lobes of the ears. They can also occur on areas of the feet exposed to pressure, for instance, on a bunion or where the second toe is squeezed by tight shoes.

They are caused by the skin's abnormal reaction to cold, damp or draughty conditions. If the skin is chilled, and is then followed by too rapid warming next to a fire or hot water bottle, chilblains may result.

This condition mainly affects young adults working outdoors in cold places or people who do not wear socks or tights in winter. Elderly people, whose circulation is less efficient that it used to be, people who don't take enough exercise, and those suffering from anaemia, are also susceptible.

To help prevent chilblains keep your body, feet and legs warm.

If chilblains have developed don't scratch them; soothing lotions such as witch hazel or calamine will take away most of the discomfort.