How to Manage Cold Urticaria


Cold weather may give you the shivers but does it make you itch? Many of us joke about being “allergic to the cold” during the winter months as we pile on heavy coats and wish for summer weather. However, about 2 percent of Americans suffer from an allergic skin reaction to the cold. The skin condition, cold urticara (cold hives), produces hives after exposure to cold temperatures. The most common form of the condition occurs when hives appear on the face, neck or hands within moments of exposure. A rare hereditary form involves the formation of hives all over the body 9 to 18 hours after exposure to cold. If you have cold utricara, rest assured that treatments are available that can reduce or prevent symptoms. This guide provides information on ways to manage cold urticaria.

Things You'll Need

  • Prescription medication to block histamine release
  • Antihistamine cream
  • Warm compress or heating pad
  • Jackets for winter and fall
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Hat
  • Socks (Two layers for winter)
  • Boots
  • Thermal underwear
  • Thick pants
  • Thick long-sleeved shirts
  • Sweater for the spring and summer

Consult with a doctor. Once you are diagnosed with cold utricia, your doctor can prescribe a course of treatment for your specific cold hives allergy. The antihistamine cyproheptadine, the tricylic antidepressant doxepin or Ketotifen are often used to block histamine release.

Treat hives or rash with warm water and antihistamine creams. Apply warm compresses or a heating pad to the affected areas. A warm bath may also help. Smooth an antihistamine cream onto the hives to soothe itching.

Take your prescribed antihistamine before exposure to cold temperatures. The antihistamine may minimize or prevent hives if taken before cold exposure.

Avoid cold weather, when possible. Limit your activities outdoors during cold weather. Dress warmly with a heavy jacket, thermal underwear, two pairs of socks, boots, a scarf and hat when you spend time outdoors. Stay indoors on days when the temperatures drop below zero.

Prevent a sudden drop in body temperature. Cold hives are more severe when the body temperature drops rapidly. Wear appropriate winter gear so that you do not lose body heat through exposed areas of skin.

Swim in heated pools or warm water. If the pool is not heated, check the water temperature before you swim to make certain it is warm. Sudden exposure to cold water can cause the body to release a large amount of histamine and result in low blood pressure, fainting, shock or death. Due to the high risk of a severe allergic reaction, never swim alone. Ask your doctor for advice on swimming.

Keep your house, office and car heated during cold weather. Use a space heater when you must spend time in an unheated indoor area.

Wear layered clothing during unpredictable weather conditions. Extra layers of clothing that can be discarded when the weather warms up, are handy when the temperature fluctuates.

Use a cardigan sweater in an air-conditioned room. When you are in an area where you cannot control the air-conditioning temperature, wear a cardigan sweater to prevent cold hives.

Protect your lips and hands from an allergic reaction to cold drinks and ice cream. Take small sips of the cold beverage to avoid a lip irritation. Wear gloves or use a napkin to hold the drink or ice cream container and keep hands from reacting to the temperature.

Tips & Warnings

  • Seek medical attention for a severe case of cold urtricaria such as painful, inflamed hives, shortness of breath, abdominal pain or an irregular heartbeat.
  • Use aloe vera gel to soothe itchy hives.
  • Take a warm bath in colloidal oatmeal to comfort itchy, achy hives
  • Ask your doctor if cold tolerance therapy can help your type of cold urtricaria.
  • Never swim alone because if the temperature drops and you suffer a severe allergic reaction, your life may depend upon someone’s help.
  • Carry emergency adrenaline with you at all times if you are at risk for anaphylactic shock reactions to cold.

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