To diagnose chilblains, your health care provider will look at the affected skin and talk with you about your symptoms and any recent cold exposure. Tell your health care provider if you're not sure whether you were in below-freezing temperatures. If you were, you might have frostbite.

To rule out other conditions, you may need blood tests. Or your health care provider may take a small sample of the affected skin to have it examined under a microscope in a laboratory. This test is called a skin biopsy.


Chilblains can be treated at home with self-care, including keeping your hands and feet warm and dry. If your chilblains symptoms don't clear up with self-care, your health care provider may suggest medicine, including:

  • A topical corticosteroid. If your chilblains symptoms include sores, applying a corticosteroid such as triamcinolone 0.1% cream might help clear them up.
  • Blood pressure medicine. For symptoms that don't respond to other treatment, your health care provider might prescribe a blood pressure medicine such as nifedipine (Procardia). It's a type of calcium channel blocker that treats chilblains by improving blood flow.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Chilblains symptoms usually clear up in 2 or 3 weeks after cold exposure. In the meantime, try the following tips to ease your symptoms:

  • Rewarm the skin slowly and gently, without massaging, rubbing or applying direct heat.
  • Avoid cold exposure whenever possible.
  • Keep the affected skin dry and warm, but away from sources of heat.
  • Apply lotion to alleviate itching, such as hydrocortisone cream available in drugstores.
  • Keep any blisters and sores clean and covered.
  • Avoid scratching the affected skin.
  • If you smoke, try to quit, as smoking can narrow your blood vessels and slow wound healing.

Preparing for your appointment

You may start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin conditions called a dermatologist or one who specializes in blood vessels called a cardiologist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

  • List any symptoms you've noticed.
  • List your key medical and personal information, including any major stressors, recent life changes or vacations to places with weather that differs from where you live.
  • List all medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including doses.
  • List questions to ask your health care provider.

For chilblains, some basic questions to ask your health care provider include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes?
  • Do I need any tests?
  • Is this condition short term or long lasting?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • What side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Do I need to restrict my activities in any way?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Do you have any brochures or other printed material I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions, such as:

  • When did you first notice your symptoms?
  • Do your symptoms get worse in response to quick changes in temperature?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • Have you ever had these symptoms before?
  • Have you been diagnosed with Raynaud's phenomenon?

What you can do in the meantime

Try to keep the affected area warm and dry.

Jan. 14, 2023
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  3. Danzl DF. Nonfreezing tissue injuries. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/cold-injury/nonfreezing-tissue-injuries#. Accessed Sept. 29, 2022.
  4. Cold stress — Cold-related illnesses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/coldrelatedillnesses.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2022.
  5. Goldman L, et al., eds. Other peripheral arterial diseases. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 29, 2022.