Chilblains are caused by the skin's abnormal reaction to cold. Circulation is a determining factor for chilblains; people with poor circulation in the feet are more susceptible.
Chilblains are characterized by small itchy, red swellings on the skin, which become increasingly painful, swell, and dry out, leaving cracks in the skin and exposing the foot to the risk of infection. They occur on the extremities -- the toes (particularly the smaller ones), fingers, the face (especially the nose), and the ear lobes. They can also occur on areas of the feet exposed to pressure, such as on a bunion or where the second toe is squeezed by tight shoes. Symptoms include burning and itching, swelling or redness, breaks in the skin, and ulcers.
Treatment includes keeping the body, legs, and feet warm, especially for individuals who have poor circulation and/or limited mobility.
Calamine lotion will take away most of the skin discomfort. If chilblains become ulcerated, application of an antiseptic dressing is the recommended form of treatment.