Cold urticaria

By October 17, 2022Health

I read something about hives a couple of days ago and it reminded me of a kid who lived next door to me when I was a kid. When he was in primary school he often seemed to have hives. At that time, you heard about hives on occasion but didn’t know much about them apart from the fact that some kids got them intermittently for no apparent reason. It was only much later when I found that they are clinically termed urticaria1. Reading about hives again reminded that I had a run-in with them about a decade ago.

At the time, I was the chief potato peeler at our place (I still am) and when peeling the spuds (which we kept in the fridge), I noticed that my hands would go red and swell up after I had peeled them. Also, being head wine waiter too, when opening a bottle of white wine or bubbles the same thing would happen. The hand that held the bottle while I unscrewed or uncorked the bottle would go red and swell up. The effect would fade after 15 minutes or thereabouts so I thought little of it. However, some time later, we spent a weekend down at the coast with some friends and family and I went for a swim in the sea. When I came out of the water (which was about a mild 20 degrees C), I had reddish raised blotches all over my body and felt faint. This scared the bejesus out of me as I had grown up near the beach and spent many days at the beach, and this had never happened to me before. I suspected that something was horribly wrong with this old carcass (I was in my fifties at the time).

I started chasing it up on the internet and that was when I found out that these red raised blotches (hives) were termed urticaria, and the specific type I had was simply called ‘cold urticaria’, and was a reaction to being exposed to cold objects or cold conditions. I found out that it was quite rare, affecting only 0.05% of the population2.

I went and saw my GP about it and he put me on to a course of a common non-sedating antihistamine, in association with ranitidine, which is termed an H2 histamine receptor antagonist3.

These worked a treat and while I still had to suffer the problem when peeling spuds or opening wine bottles, when we went down to the coast I’d just hit the antihistamines and ranitidine and had no problem when swimming (or pouring wine which was a common requirement on our coastal holidays). This went on for a couple of years, but seemed to disappear, and now I can peel spuds until I am blue in the face, but have no reaction to the cold whatsoever. This is the most common form of cold urticaria, which seems to come and go with no apparent reason4.

While I seem to have escaped fairly easily, many people are not so lucky. Some cases of cold urticaria are inherited, coming from a genetic mutation and they can be quite severe and long-lasting. Indeed, it is dangerous and may be characterised by swelling in the airway making it difficult to swallow or breathe. If that happens, a person needs to seek medical attention immediately.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.