Watch out for cold fingers and toes

Watch out for cold fingers and toes

Cold fingers and toes are quite common at this time of year. But what if they become a warning sign for something else? This health tip explains the causes and some things you can do.
In the winter season, cold hands and feet are actually quite common, yet many people become concerned when they are freezing during this time. But if you notice this happening frequently and feel pain at the same time, it may be an indication of Raynaud's syndrome, which is a serious condition.


When you're in a cold environment, our body regulates the core temperature by contracting the blood vessels. In people who have Raynaud's syndrome, the body triggers this reaction excessively. Their fingers or toes (in rare cases, it can also be affect the nose, ears or nipples) first turn completely white, which is why the syndrome is also called "white finger syndrome". Subsequently, the affected parts turn bluish before changing to red. Such colour changes are accompanied by pain or numbness, for example. The condition is triggered either by cold temperatures or emotional stress.

There are two forms

Raynaud's syndrome comes in primary and secondary forms. The causes of the primary form are unknown, and the symptoms occur more often in women than in men. In women, such attacks usually start during puberty and subside at the time of menopause. The secondary form is always related to another illness, such as rheumatism. The symptoms often occur asymmetrically, affecting only one hand or only one foot, for example. If you notice such symptoms, you should see your doctor for a detailed examination. Even when such symptoms appear for the first time only during middle age, or if they are very pronounced, it is definitely time go to see the doctor.

Tips against cold fingers and toes

We recommend the following ways to avoid cold extremities in general:

  • Walking, jumping and running will stimulate the circulation and get your blood moving, which in turn will help to warm your fingers and toes.
  • If it's cold outside, put on some good gloves and thick enough socks for protection. Besides mittens, consider using heated gloves or hand warmers, which are available in specialist shops or supermarkets.
  • If stress causes Raynaud's syndrome, consider doing yoga or using another relaxation method.
  • Never warm up cold hands and feet with hot water or by using hot objects. If your skin is cold and insufficiently supplied with blood, you won't be able to gauge temperatures quickly and thus could burn yourself. You're best off starting with water that's only a few degrees above your body temperature and then gradually making it warmer.

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Medical help around the clock: The doctors and medical specialists at santé24 are there to offer you expert advice on all questions concerning prevention, illness, accidents and maternity – 365 days a year. Advice is free of charge to SWICA customers.

In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.