Can you be allergic to cold?

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by Tami Hoey

azfamily.com

Posted on December 28, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 2 at 11:44 AM

PHOENIX -- Just like allergies to dust and pollen, is it possible some people are simply allergic to cold?

Experts at Mayo Clinic say it can happen.

The condition is called cold urticaria, also known as also called cold allergy or cold hives.

With cold urticaria, exposure to cold temperatures causes redness, itching, swelling and hives on the skin that has been in contact with the cold. As much as possible, people with the allergy should try their best to avoid exposure to cold.

It’s not just weather that causes problems for those affected.  Many folks with this condition can’t eat ice cream, drink cold liquids, or even swim in chilly water.

Asthma and allergy specialist Dr. James Li explains the condition. “With extreme cold exposure or total body exposure there can be a massive release of histamine and significant body swelling, even a drop in blood pressure. And this could be a life-threatening situation,” Li says.

The cause of cold urticaria isn't clear. Certain people appear to have overly sensitive skin cells, either due to an inherited trait or caused by a virus or other illness.

So how do you know if you’re allergic to the cold? Take the ice cube test. The test involves putting an ice pack on your forearm to see if there’s a reaction.

If you think you have cold urticaria, consult your doctor. Treatment may include antihistamines taken before cold exposure.

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