All About Indie - Cold Urticaria


Welcome to the third post of the "All About Indie" series. Today, we get to talk about something I find really stupid. I suffer from cold urticaria. In laymens terms, I'm allergic to the cold.

What is Cold Urticaria?

Cold urticaria (essentially meaning cold hives) is a disorder where hives (urticaria) or large red welts form on the skin after exposure to a cold stimulus. The welts are usually itchy and often the hands and feet will become itchy and swollen as well. Hives vary in size from about 7 mm in diameter to as big as about 27 mm or larger.

Common Symptoms

(As with the above, I'm pulling this straight out of Wikipedia.)

When the body is exposed to the cold in individuals afflicted by the condition, hives appear and the skin in the affected area typically becomes itchy. Hives result from dilation of capillaries which allow fluid to flow out into the surrounding tissue which is the epidermis. They resolve when the body absorbs this fluid. The border of a hive is described as polycyclic, or made up of many circles, and changes as fluid leaks out and then is absorbed. Pressing on a hive causes the skin to blanch distinguishing it from a bruise or papule. Hives can last for a few minutes or a few days, and vary from person to person. Also, a burning sensation occurs. A serious reaction is most likely to occur for patients where the hives occur with less than 3 minutes of exposure (during a cold test).

My Symptoms

I get hives, and I get itchy.

Yeah, that's about it. It's funny (to me, at least) that I live in a place that is frozen six months out of the year, but I know how to manage it - JUST STAY HOME. Or, you know, if I have to be exposed to the temperatures, at least take a Benadryl or something. Yeah, antihistamines for sub-zero temps. Actually, the temps don't even have to be sub-zero. If the surface of my skin cools to a certain point... hives.

How I'm Affected

So, anyway, my parents came to the realization early on that something was "amiss" - by the time I was about 4/5, I couldn't even play in a puddle in springtime without breaking out in hives. This led to having to take allergy medication just to go ice fishing.

When I was a teenager, the last known incident I can remember was when I was swimming at a friend's house in late May, early June. The sun was warm, but the water was cold. I thought - I'll just jump in with my sweats on! BRILLIANT!


I broke out in hives so bad, they covered my entire body. My friend's parents had an old van sitting by the river (you know, like the one Uncle Rico drives around in on Napoleon Dynamite), so her mom told me to get inside while she got me a blanket and some allergy meds. I remember how wonderfully warm it was inside that van.

For years, I went without a single incident. Or at least without anything major. My hands would get cold and start to itch, so I'd have to warm them - slowly, mind you. Warming them too quickly is PAINFUL.

Fast forward to December 2014. We were in Lake Havasu, Arizona, staying at this cute little house with a(n unheated) pool out back. I was feeling a little wild and crazy, and it was not warm like you would think. (Did you know it snows in Arizona? Pretty much every time I'm there, it snows.) Anyway, I got the BRILLIANT idea to do a polar bear swim in that unheated pool. Keep reading to find out what happened...

Did you guess? I bet you did, you're smart. Hives. HIVES happened.

So, I was actually going to go into discussion about some of my mental/neurological issues on this post, but it was a chilly day this morning and my daughter (who is 5) came in from playing outside without a jacket. She was covered in hives.

Now, apparently genetically inherited cold urticaria doesn't present the way it presents in me and my youngest, so I don't know what the deal is. All I know is that day by day she's proving more and more to be a mini-me - almost like I cloned myself.

Next on All About Indie

Next time, I actually WILL go into some neurological/mental conditions. Have any questions? Comments? Feel free to e-mail me.

P.S. You might have noticed the weird little pink button below - this is a new feature I've implemented after reading a post about it by Kev Quirk - I thought adding a button for e-mail might help people make that jump from lurking to responding. ;-)

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