The Main Stream

Jan 12, 2010 10:07 AM

Doctors say it's possible to be allergic to cold weather

A person can be allergic to foods, cats, and mold but can he or she be allergic to cold weather?

Some say it's possible to be allergic to winter's frigid air.

Doctors say there is a condition called cold urticaria, otherwise known as an allergy to cold temperatures.

It often starts with hives.

Dr. Richard Wachs, an allergist, says "They 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."

He says all it takes to start the reaction is exposure to the cold.

"When people are going swimming, if they jump into a cold pool and they have a reaction where their blood pressure drops, they can actually faint and there have been drownings from it."

Wachs says if you have it, eating an ice cream cone can cause lips to swell or 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."

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.

Some medical professionals 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.

Wachs says, "It could be serious and you never quite know who's going to be the one who has that sort of reaction."

The doctor 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.

Also, Wachs says that in warmer months, people can be allergic to the heat as well.

The condition is not as severe as allergies to the cold, but if you have it, a hot shower will cause you to break out into hives.

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