Jan 17, 2010 11:28 AM by Dawn Timmeney
There are people that are allergic to foods, allergic to cats, allergic to mold, and even allergic to cold weather. That's right, you can actually be allergic to winter's frigid air.
For some, frosty air isn't just a minor irritation. Doctors say there is a condition called cold urticaria, otherwise known as an allergy to cold temperatures. It often starts with hives, but those who have it can have symptoms such as drops in blood pressure, redness, blushing, significant itchiness, even to the point with blood pressure drops that they can have a passing out.
Allergist Richard Wachs says all it takes to start the reaction is exposure to the cold. He says if you have it, eating an ice cream cone can cause lips to swell, hands can break out after holding a cold drink. He says usually it's when you begin to warm up that symptoms start. "When they get back inside and their skin starts to warm again, it triggers a release of histamine, a natural chemical in the body, which triggers the allergic reaction." Dr. Wachs said.
Doctors use a very low-tech way to test for the allergy. An ice cube is placed on the skin for five or more minutes. If you have the condition, hives will appear after the cube is removed. There's no cure but it can be treated with anti-histamines, like Benadryl and medications including Zyrtec and Allegra.
Doctors say those who have the allergy should take medication every day in cold weather. Some should carry an epi-pen, a self injectible dose of the rescue medication, epinephrine.
Dr. Wachs says it's more common in children and young adults. He says if you think you are allergic to the cold, talk to a doctor and don't go out in this frigid weather unless you bundle up.