Now that I’ve experienced this interesting allergy for the past three months, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about dealing with cold urticaria (an allergy to cold). Hopefully this will be of use to anyone else out there who finds themselves getting rashes and hives from exposure to cold.
- The itching does not go away simply by distracting yourself for a minute. It’s not like a mosquito bite. The only way it’s going to subside is if the area warms up. I have naturally cold feet, and I suffered through three very distracted hours last week in meetings because I wasn’t wearing my now customary two pairs of socks.
- Never, ever walk without at least socks on, if not slippers/shoes. Trust me, itchy feet are massively irritating and make you look very stupid when you find yourself hopping around because the movement is somehow soothing. As stated in the previous paragraph, I wear two pairs of socks, and now that it’s starting to get properly cold in the UK, I wear a normal pair covered by a thermal pair. Even then, I occasionally get itchy heels.
- The quickest way to help the itching subside is to deliberately warm up the area. I find running my hands in very warm water particularly helpful.
- Dry off properly after bathing/showering. I have learned the hard way to target my ankles and feet quickly.
- If you’re a girl, avoid shaving your legs, unless you like the feeling of hundreds of pinpricks when your legs get cold. It goes from being itchy to actually stinging when your freshly shaved legs experience a walk outside in the cold.
- Invest in thermals and lots of knitted layers.
- Stock up on scarves, gloves and hats/earmuffs. I’ve even considered getting a balaclava to protect my face, but I have yet to give up that part of my dignity.
- Avoid the direct path of air conditioners.
- If you can’t avoid air-conditioned rooms (e.g. your coworkers run on the warm side and like to keep the room cool), don’t forget to bring something warm wherever you go. Take it with you to any meeting rooms where the other members of the meeting want to turn the air conditioning on.
- Exercise is not your friend. I’ve discovered that I can be warm internally, but if my skin cools down, I’ll get rashes. This has been particularly annoying when walking quickly to places (I get warm, take off my coat and then get itchy), as well as when exercising. As your sweat evaporates, your skin cools, even though you’re so hot you’re sweating – vicious! I did a 45-minute workout on Monday in my heated house, and I had rashes everywhere by the end of it. A hot shower was very welcome.
- Medication does not work. This is my least favourite tip to write, as it’s the most disappointing. I have tried a few antihistamines, and none have controlled these reactions. Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but I want you to know so that you don’t get your hopes up. I read a few reputable websites that claimed they’d work, but Dermnetnz.org (recommended by my GP) claims that 4 times the usual dose can work. For me it didn’t, so my GP has contacted a dermatologist by email to see if they have any further suggestions.
Please do let me know if you are also living with cold urticaria. Ask me questions, and I will try to answer as honestly as I can. We’re a rare bunch, so we need to help each other out!