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Sting, Skin

When The Cold Brings On Hives

There are times I’ve reacted in warm weather simply because I got chilled. Avoiding exposure to cold is not always possible. This is where medications come in.

“There is no cure for cold-induced urticaria, but administering antihistamines, for example, Benadryl or Zyrtec [Reactine in Canada], can prevent or greatly reduce the severity,” says Ostro. If a patient has a history of internal hives in the mouth and throat that cause difficulty breathing, he will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector.

Ultimately, Ostro recommends working with your physician to find the medication regime that optimally controls the condition.

For me, Reactine does the trick. I take it ahead of time whenever I plan to be outdoors in cool weather for an extended period. But it also works in a pinch if the weather suddenly turns – though a few hives may develop before the medicine takes full effect.

As weather in Alberta is wholly unpredictable, I always carry my antihistamines, and an extra sweater or jacket. If I’m going to be outdoors for a while, I’ll pack extra socks and a hat. Plus, I try to make sure there’s somewhere that I can go to warm up, even if that’s just to my car.

Understanding cold-induced urticaria has given me the confidence to cope with it. Now when I have a reaction, I know how to respond, and how to explain to others what is happening.

At the age of 30, I no longer feel the trauma of my youth. What’s better, and harder to convey, is just what it feels like to enjoy the cold climate in which I’ve lived my whole life.

It is incredibly freeing to do simple things like walking my dog without worrying about getting hives. I can finally take part in a winter sport or a good snowball fight. At last, Old Man Winter and I have come to terms. I’m sure it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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