As some of you may have already gleaned, I’ve developed a rare allergy called cold urticaria, which is an allergy to cold. My reaction to even the slightest of cool breezes is to develop an irritatingly itchy, blotchy red rash. The Oxford winter has left me with swollen fingers, hot ears and a numb nose from just the five-minute walk between my office and my car. I even had to ask HR to buy me a heater because I just could not concentrate while my feet (in two pairs of socks–one thermal–and leather boots) were cold and maddeningly itchy.
Back in November, I saw my GP, who wrote to the local dermatology department at one of Oxford’s many hospitals. An appointment was made for me (two months later–thanks, NHS), which happened to be a couple of weeks ago. I was seen by a very sympathetic and kind doctor, who had luckily seen this allergy once before. After undergoing the expected ice cube (or in this case, ice pack) test, being examined by a curious med student and having far too many vials of blood taken, I was given a prescription for a couple of antihistamines to try.
I was sceptical, since I’d already tried over-the-counter and two other prescribed antihistamines, but lo and behold, the first drug I tried worked! Well, mostly worked. It didn’t take away all the symptoms, but it took away the worst one–the itching. I still get the numbness in my nose when I go outside, but I can handle that. The rashes were slowly driving me insane, and I am so, so grateful for that doctor and Cetirizine.
This will sound incredibly cheesy, but I guess my lesson learned here was to have hope and keep trying different medications until I found one that worked. (My other lesson learned just this evening is to get the miracle pills on prescription, as Cetirizine is sold over-the-counter here as Piriteze…which is £3 for just 7 tablets, as opposed to the prescription charge of £8.05 for 60 tablets. Given that I’m taking two a day, that’s a no-brainer.)