The key difference between chilblains and frostbite is that chilblains are caused by cold temperatures above 32 F° or 1 C°, while frostbite is caused by freezing temperatures below 32 F° or 0 C°.
As the weather gets colder, it is very important to protect oneself from the dangers of cold temperatures. Generally, elderly people, frail, ill, and very young people are most susceptible to extreme cold temperatures. Chilblains and frostbite occur as a result of being out in the cold for too long time period. However, chilblains trigger itchiness and burning sensation. On the other hand, frostbite triggers numbness following pins and needle sensations. Moreover, chilblains usually clear up on their own, whereas frostbite requires immediate medical attention.
What are Chilblains?
Chilblains are small, itchy swellings that occur due to exposure to cold temperatures. They often appear in the body’s extremities, such as toes, fingers, heels, ears, and nose. They can be uncomfortable. But they rarely cause any severe or permanent damage to the body. The signs and symptoms of chilblains may include a burning and itching sensation in the affected areas that can be more intense if people go into a warm room, skin looking swollen and turning red or dark blue, and skin that may break and sores or blisters in the skin. The risk factors for this condition are poor circulation, family history, regular exposure to cold conditions, poor diet, people having lupus, and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Chilblains can be diagnosed through family history and physical examination. Furthermore, the treatment options for chilblains may include applying soothing lotions such as calamine or witch hazel to relieve itching and taking a daily tablet called nifedipine.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite is skin damage caused by freezing temperatures below 32 F° or 0 C°. It is more common in fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Moreover, the signs and symptoms of frostbite may include cold, sore, painful sensation (frostnip), pins and needle sensation (surface frostbite), and numbness (deep frostbite). The risk factors for this condition include being younger than 18 years old, living and working in cold climates, living without housing, having underlying conditions like peripheral vascular disease, malnutrition, Raynaud’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, arthritis or diabetes, and smoking tobacco products.
Frostbite can be diagnosed through physical examination and imaging tests like X-ray. Furthermore, treatment options for frostbite may include rewarming the skin, taking oral pain medicine like ibuprofen, wrapping the area with sterile sheets, towels, or dressings to protect the skin, removing damaged skin tissue, whirlpool therapy or physical therapy, taking infection-fighting drugs (antibiotics), clot-busting drugs such as an intravenous (IV) injection of a drug called thrombolytic, wound care, surgery, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
What are the Similarities Between Chilblains and Frostbite?
- Chilblains and frostbite occur as a result of being out in the cold for too long.
- Both conditions can cause skin changes.
- They can be diagnosed through physical examination.
- They can be treated through supportive therapy and specific medications.
What is the Difference Between Chilblains and Frostbite?
Chilblains are caused by cold temperatures above 32 F° or 1 C°, while frostbite is caused by freezing temperatures below 32 F° or 0 C°. Thus, this is the key difference between chilblains and frostbite. Furthermore, chilblains usually clear up on their own, whereas frostbite requires immediate medical attention.
The infographic below presents the differences between chilblains and frostbite in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Chilblains vs. Frostbite
Chilblains and frostbite occur as a result of being out in the cold for too long. Chilblains are small itchy swellings that occur due to exposure to cold temperatures above 33 F° or 1 C° while frostbite is skin damage caused by freezing temperatures below 32 F° or 0 C°. Chilblains fade away with time, while frostbite needs immediate medical attention. Hence, this summarizes the difference between chilblains and frostbite.