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Strange But True

June 27, 2009

Snowflake_3DThere are people in the world that are actually allergic to the cold.  Also known as cold urticaria — quite literally, an allergy to cold temperatures.

“If you put an ice cube on somebody that has cold urticaria, they’re going to have a big welt right where the ice cube was,” said Dr. Thomas Casale, chief of allergy and immunology at Creighton University and executive vice president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Worse, those with the condition can expect to experience similar reactions to bitter winds and cold surfaces.

A minor exposure, such as taking a few snowflakes to the face during a blizzard, can result in the formation of itchy, uncomfortable bumps. A major exposure — such as from diving into a chilly swimming pool — could theoretically be enough to send the body into a potentially deadly allergic shock.

“There are patients that we’ve been talking to who have had full-blown vascular collapse and ended up in the emergency room at death’s door,” said Dr. Gerald Gleich of the University of Utah, who studies patients who suffer from cold urticaria. “This is a very, very potentially serious problem.”

Because this condition is so rare there is no treatment and therefore hard to study. Pretty strange, don’t you think?

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