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I have a friend who clames to have an alergy to cold. Is there any such illness.

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Updated February 4, 2006



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I am a School Nurse and one of my students told me that she is "allergic" to cold weather and breaks out in hives. Is there such a thing, or is this just a vasomotor response? -- Cathy, Canada



Cold-induced urticaria (breaking out in hives when exposed to cold) is not as common as some urticarias, but I see it occasionally. We test this by applying ice to the skin. Hives will develop within minutes if the person has cold urticaria. (See a photo of this test in reference #1 below.)



Cold urticaria can lead to severe symptoms, including swelling beneath the skin surface (angioedema), difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, anaphylactic shock, and death. For some, eating ice-cold food or drinking ice-cold liquid can cause dangerous swelling in the throat. People with cold urticaria should always carry with them an EpiPen or similar device. (See reference from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, below.)



The best treatment is avoidance. Swimming or other situations where large areas of the body are exposed to cool water is especially dangerous. Deaths by drowning have been reported. Antihistamines are useful, especially for prophylaxis (prevention). One doctor I worked for treated a patient with cold urticaria who had to go into a meat locker often as part of her work. She always wore a heavy coat and gloves in the locker. The doctor put her on high doses of several antihistamines from different classes, a common treatment for cold urticaria. This helped keep her symptoms at bay, though not totally controlled.



Cold urticaria is one of a large number of physical urticarias. I've included some references below for further study.



**edited by moderator**
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r white wrote:

yes this is real i have a alergy to the cold i get hives and i swell it is very hard to live with as i find it hard to go out as much as i like if i do go out i must bundle up from head to toe and i can only be out for a short time people who have never suffered with htis don't understand what it is like and i wish there was a way to make it go away

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I have this alergy. it is not to severe, but one time when i was swimming in cold water my blood pressure dropped, I could get out from the water, but I could not see anything for 10 minutes, though i remained concious.
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Some people develop hives on the skin when they encounter cold temperatures. This condition, called cold urticaria, is the most common type of hives caused by a physical condition. The hives are produced by a rapid release of histamine brought about by IgE antibodies and eosinophils (a type of white blood cell often involved in allergic reactions) in response to the cold. Rapid cooling, as from the evaporation when one gets out of a swimming pool, can trigger cold urticaria even on a warm day. For people with cold urticaria, swimming in very cold water is quite dangerous, sometimes even causing death.
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when i was a child i could not go swimming for very long in cold water like the river most people get used to the water but my hives would get worse and worse. Also my family loved to go camping well my mom got this new boy toy and he thought it would be a good idea in mid october to go camping i had to get in the car and turn the heater on i also had to wear a ski mask when my hives got really really bad its got a lot better as i've got older
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