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Winter-toes: What are they and how do you prevent them?

The name of the disease already reveals that it is a 'seasonal condition': winter tar. Experts tell how many people suffer from it, what it means and more importantly: how you get rid of it.

There is a relatively small number of people with perniones, the official term for winter teeth or hands. A group of Dutch people of all ages is troubled by it. On average, the condition occurs in one to two out of every thousand Dutch, more often women than men.

That is also the reason why not much knowledge and information was available about the disorder, explains GP and researcher Ibo Souwer. "The average GP sees four patients with these complaints every year, depending on how heavy the winter is, and it is not a dangerous condition, you do not die, it is especially annoying." That is why Souwer decided to do research himself.

Winter toes fall under the group of disorders that are annoying, but automatically change again. People who suffer from winter rats or hands will experience red-blue or purple-blue spots with itching, burning or pain in the winter.

The spots are sometimes also swollen and can occur in several places, from the nose or ears to the feet or the upper leg. Those who scratch the spots run the risk of causing blisters, inflammations or wounds. The complaints automatically go away when the temperatures rise again.

What to do against winter bees or hands:

Warm dressing, insulating clothing helps

To keep moving

Wear socks and gloves made of cotton or wool

Research into the effect of vitamin D

Souwer therefore decided to dive into the subject himself after he came into contact with Toine Lagro-Janssen, professor in Nijmegen. "We used to treat winter bites with a vitamin D injection, which helped us learn the training."

When these injections went out of business, Souwer researched the effects. "It was especially clear that the vitamin did not turn out to be as effective, but proving that something does not work is always difficult, but the vitamin was clearly not more effective than a placebo."

After a group of patients were interviewed about what the condition had for impact, it appeared that more distress was caused than previously assumed. "People were faced with considerable limitations, from someone who could no longer peel an apple to a farmer who could not milk his cows because he could not stand on his feet."

It also became apparent that many patients missed a visit to the GP, often because they already knew that they had no concrete solution to offer. The number of patients might therefore be slightly higher. "In a few cases it became apparent that the disease is more common in some families than in others, and that familial component has also been shown in later studies."

Winter toes in all age groups

Souwer's research showed that the winter or man's hands may be caused by the balance that is kept between maintaining a normal body temperature and preventing skin damage from cooling down. "The blood vessels then pull together in the skin to retain the heat."

This keeps the body warm, but cools the skin locally. "In a counter-reaction, the blood vessels of the skin dilate regularly for a short time, and if that reaction is disrupted, it could possibly cause skin damage such as redness, pain or itching."

The condition occurs in people of all ages.

What helps and what does not?

After the doctoral research of Souwer, the Dutch General Practitioners Association and the Thuisarts.nl website have adjusted their information about the condition and treatment. There are no medications that help against the disorder, the doctor emphasizes. Also, there is no evidence that massages or skin smear with cream or oil helps.

Those who want to arm themselves against the winter or man hands, can take several tips to heart. For example, it is important to keep the body warm, possibly with the help of breathable insulating clothing. People who exercise too little or who are lean are at greater risk of winter teeth or hands, according to the GP.

Wearing cotton or wool socks and waterproof shoes can also keep the feet warm and dry. Also think of wearing gloves and ear muffs. Also make sure that there is no clothing that is too tight, which may pinch the blood flow.

In addition, avoid scratching, rubbing or rubbing on areas of the skin that have been given a different color due to the cold.

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