Allergy to pollen, animal hair, dust and medications is a common problem, faced by millions of people all over the world. But did you know that some of us are allergic to… cold?
Red and itchy hives, which appear on the skin, exposed to low temperatures, are scientifically called cold urticaria.
Those who have this type of allergy notice symptoms after swimming in the cold water, drinking ice-cold beverages or simply walking outside in the winter, especially if there is damp and windy weather.
Reaction usually appears within several minutes after exposure to cold and lasts nearly two hours.
In severe cases, when a person stays in cold temperatures for a long time or has a lot of skin exposed to trigger factor, allergy may lead to serious, potentially life-threatening conditions like fainting and sudden drop of blood pressure.
It's not clear enough, which mechanisms are involved in cold allergy. Nowadays scientists say that low temperatures cause releasing of chemical histamine into the bloodstream that triggers immune response.
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In the majority of cases, cold allergy affects young adults, who don't have any health problems. However it's also possible that cold urticaria appears as a result of underlying disorder such as cancer or hepatitis.
The best way to prevent allergy is staying off triggers. But sometimes it's easier to say than to do. Some individuals are so sensitive to changes in temperature that they can't go outdoors in the winter without experiencing allergy symptoms.
The good news is that even such a severe allergy could be dealt easily with special medications.
Antihistamine medicines can block releasing of allergy-inducing chemical histamine and prevent developing hives. But be aware that some of these pills cause drowsiness that could be dangerous for car drivers. The most popular over-the-counter antihistamines, which don't cause sleepiness, are loratadine, cetirizine and desloratadine.
If these effective medicines fail to reduce your symptoms and prevent cold allergy, your doctor may recommend you taking stronger medications, like omalizumab. It is usually prescribed to deal with asthma, but can be used to fight off severe cold allergy too.
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