Tips to Avoid Getting Shimoyake (Chilblains) This Winter

  • HOW TO
  • Have you ever heard of shimoyake (霜焼け)? It is translated as ‘chilblains’ in English. Do you know what it is? Are you experienced with shimoyake? Are you having difficulty explaining shimoyake in Japanese? What are the causes and treatment of shimoyake? This may give you basic information and awareness on shimoyake.

    Personal Experience

    Last year when it was the first winter of my life, I experienced shimoyake where I suffered with it for almost two months. During that time, I was staying in Japan and so it was difficult to explain shimoyake to the pharmacist due to the language barriers. It was also hard to explain it in English too because this was the first time I had experienced it.

    What is Shimoyake?

    Shimoyake (or chilblains) is the situation where you experience a painful, itching and swelling of your hands or toes. This occurs because of the abnormal skin reaction as a response to it being exposed to cold temperatures. Sometimes, shimoyake can cause red patches, itching and blistering not only on the foot but also can attack your fingers, ears and nose. In my experience, I realized that I got shimoyake on my toes after I warmed up my cold skin too quickly when I came back from outdoor activities with my kids during snowfall.


    You can prevent shimoyake by doing the following:

    • Keep your hands and feet warm when outdoors in cold weather by using warm gloves and socks.
    • Wearing a hat and scarf to keep your head and ears warm.
    • Wearing a boot if you have outdoor activities during snowfall.
    • Do not wear tight shoes and boots because it can restrict your blood circulation.
    • Make sure you’re wearing dry clothes and keep as warm as possible during winter.
    • Warm up your body gradually after being out in the cold weather.
    • Use heating pads called Hokkairo which is heated when exposed to air.
    Treatment and Tips

    The duration for shimoyake to heal depends on the individual. Even though it is uncomfortable, it usually does not cause any permanent damage. This is some treatment and tips:

    • You can buy several brands of creams from a pharmacy in order to reduce your itching.
    • Drink hot drinks to keep your entire body always warm.
    • If you smoke, then you should try to stop because nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict. It can make shimoyake worse.
    • Moisturize your feet regularly in order to stop your feet drying out and the skin cracking.
    • Try to keep at least one room in your house warm.
    • Keep active in order to help improve your blood circulation.
    • Do not scratch or rub the affected areas of skin.
    • Do not directly overheat the affected areas. For example, using hot water.
    • Covering the area with an antiseptic dressing.
    • Use or add ginger in cooking. It is able to warm the body and is good for blood circulation.

    Last but not least, enjoy the upcoming winter and make preparations ahead to avoid shimoyake (霜焼け).