Can you be allergic to the cold?

Weather Wednesday

Cold uticaria

FARGO - We are no stranger to the cold here in the north, but you can actually have a reaction to the chilly temperatures. “Usually, it's a pretty obvious response,” Sanford Allergist Dr. Chris Cleveland says. And he's not talking about rosy cheeks, “When you have temperature changes you get just a flushing response and that's just our skin trying to warm up by moving blood to that area. But urticaria, or hives, is an actual kind of red area that has a whitish raised portion and it looks like a mosquito bite in a way and is pretty itchy.”

If you have cold uticaria, little white bumps will form purely from exposure to frigid temperatures, a reaction more often seen in women and children, though it is not very common Dr. Cleveland says, “It is pretty rare, but it's only probably about one out of 2000 individuals or 0.05% of the population. So we don't see it very often.”

But there is an easy way to check if you have this rare response to the cold, even though it’s not quite an allergy. You don’t even need a blood test Dr. Cleveland explains, “Say if you had a cold drink or something or something else that is resting against your skin. You'll end up in the hive and the patterns are sitting on your skin.”

“If you've got it can be hard to manage up here. But folks definitely do manage. Usually just have to make sure you are moving from one warm area to another,” Dr. Cleveland advises trying to minimize time outdoors, layering and covering exposed skin. “Usually just warming up is the thing that will make the hives go away, it’s more of a nuisance and it’s usually well controlled with an antihistamine medicine.”

Those who do have this type of reaction to the cold need to be the most careful AFTER the snow melts since swimming in cold lakes, rivers or pools can trigger an anaphylactic reaction in severe cases.

Jesse Ritka is a StormTracker meteorologist and holds the AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal of approval.

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