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Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: Skin reactions to cold


 n52463g - Mon Feb 20, 2006 8:30 pm

I'm a 20 year old female. I am from the US but I'm currently abroad in the UK for a 5 month period.

For about a week, my skin has been reacting to the cold. It first started with my ears-- they would get red and would swell and after about an hour or two, the swelling would go away. Then about two days later, I was walking outside and my leg started to itch. This turned into what seemed to be hives all on my upper thighs. After taking some antihistamines, this went away as well. Ever since, whenever I spent prolonged periods of time (anything more than 10 minutes) outside, anything exposed seems to swell. I've tried covering my ears and putting on gloves and this prevents any irritation. My cheeks however also experience such swelling, redness and even an itching/burning sensation. This happened again tonight. Four hours later and the swelling hasn't completely gone away.

It seems strange that I would experience such suddon symptoms to the cold. I am from Massachusetts and the weather is far colder than it is here. I have also been here for a month and a half but this did not develop until a week ago.

I have had hives before, I first got them about a year ago but I figured it was an allergic reaction to food. What the food was, I never determined.

Any ideas on what's going on and what I can do?
 Dr. Safaa Mahmoud - Thu Aug 31, 2006 5:18 am

User avatar Hello,

This could be a Cold urticaria.

The condition presents with rapid onset of itchiness, redness, rash and swelling of the skin after exposure to any cold stimulus like cold whether, having a cold drink or eating cold food.

There are two forms of cold urticaria exist:
- essential (acquired) cold urticaria in which few minutes are needed for symptoms to start after cold exposure,
- familial (hereditary) cold urticaria in which it may take up to 48 hours for symptoms to appear, they also last longer.

Treatment include precautions taken while being exposed to cold and medications like the newer antihistamines (H1 receptor blockers) which are proved to be very effective.

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