Share article:
Share article:

An epidemic of chilblains: Is there a link with Covid-19?

A case of chilblains. © Sapp/Wikimedia

Dermatologists and family doctors are reporting unusual numbers of young people with chilblains, prompting the question: Is there a possible link with the Covid-19 pandemic?

Chilblains, or perniosis, is a condition affecting the fingers and toes, in which blood seeps into the surrounding tissues and causes redness, itching, inflammation and sometimes blisters.

Usually, chilblains are caused by damp and cold conditions. However they can sometimes be linked to other conditions, including lupus and vasculitis.

On a weekly basis I’m seeing four time as many cases of teenagers with chilblains,” dermatologist Jos Vanhee told VRT Radio this morning.

For a year now we have seen an inexplicable increase in the number of patients with chilblains. Even in full summer.”

The problem seems particularly to affect adolescents. And the apparent epidemic of the condition is confirmed by the Royal Belgian Society for Dermatology.

The typical patient with chilblains is a 16-year-old girl,” Dr. Vanhee said. “Since corona, it is noticeable that more boys are also coming in.”

The problem is not confined to Belgium; the same phenomenon has been reported across Europe, And since it seemed to coincide with the lockdown and the pandemic, there was speculation that chilblains might be a manifestation among young people of a Covid-19 infection.

Young people are known to be less susceptible to the more dangerous symptoms of Covid-19. Could chilblains be a particular way the virus affected the young?

Not according to another dermatologist, Dr. Anne Herman of the Saint-Luc university hospital in Brussels.

In June last year, Dr. Herman published a paper that looked at 31 cases of chilblains, mostly teenagers and young adults, who were given a series of tests to detect whether they had been infected with the coronavirus. None tested positive.

Chilblains appeared not to be directly associated with COVID-19 in this case series,” the paper concluded. “Lifestyle changes associated with community containment and lockdown measures are a possible explanation for these lesions.”

However another study carried out by the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found skin conditions including chilblains to be a common occurrence among patients who had been infected with Covid-19 and recovered – the so-called ‘long haulers’.

Chilblains were not the only problems arising in long haulers, but the condition lasted more than 60 days in six patients, and more than 130 days in another two. And according to that study, the condition of chilblains in long haulers is even “commonly known as Covid toes”.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Testing rules following high-risk contact eased for vaccinated people
The coronavirus testing policy following a high-risk contact has been eased, meaning a vaccinated person who was in contact with an infected person ...
New measures announced for Belgian schools
Stricter rules are being implemented across a variety of sectors in Belgium to curb the rising number of infections and limit the damage as a result ...
Majority of booster doses should be administered by March 2022
Invitations will be sent out in the following days for the general population in Belgium to receive a coronavirus booster vaccine, and most adults ...
Belgium adopts national plan to combat gender-based violence
Belgium has adopted a National Action plan for the Fight against Gender-Based Violence, which includes more than 200 measures and unites all levels ...
Antwerp cancels Christmas market and New Year’s Eve fireworks
The city of Antwerp has joined other cities including Leuven and Ghent by announcing it is cancelling this year's Christmas market, the end-of-year ...
Pharmaceutical companies looking into vaccines against new variant
Pharmaceutical companies have sprung into action to look into vaccine protection against the new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, ...
Belgium imposes entry ban on travellers from southern Africa
Belgium is introducing an entry ban for travellers from several countries in the south of Africa following concerns about a new variant (B.1.1.529) ...
What Ursula did next
BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES • Weekly analysis and untold stories
Nightclub closures, limiting contacts: These rules come into force today
Just over one week after its last meeting, Belgium's Consultative Committee on Friday once again announced a set of new measures to curb the rising ...
Almost 3,500 Covid-19 patients in hospitals as new cases continue to skyrocket
The number of new coronavirus cases in Belgium is continuing to rise, and with it the number of Covid-19 patients who are hospitalised as a result of ...
ECDC issues threat assessment about new COVID-19 variant, WHO designates it as a variant of concern
Preliminary data on the risks of the new COVID variant of concern is high, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said late ...
EU decides to activate emergency brake against new COVID-variant but stops short of flight ban
The new COVID variant detected in South Africa has put the EU on alert and prompted the Council’s Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) to ...