I came across this article and wondered how rare cold urticaria is, because I also have it. Anyway, here’s the article. I’m grateful I never reached the point when my skin would flare up the way hers does–but then I’ve been careful about exposing myself to extreme cold since I was diagnosed.
I was diagnosed with cold urticaria in 2000 and have been taking medication for it since then. I had just recently returned to teaching after a stint of other jobs. I had been assigned to an air-conditioned classroom, which I thoroughly enjoyed because I do not like the heat.
While teaching one day, my hands started itching. I ignored it. That went on for several days, but the itchiness became worse. I thought it might be that I was allergic to chalk, so I requested that all my classes be relocated to classrooms that had whiteboards instead of chalkboards. Still, the itching persisted. After a few more days, the itchiness intensified, climbing up my arms to my elbows. My feet also started itching and that itchiness climbed up my legs to my thighs. I was so uncomfortable and worried because it was distracting and I tried so hard to hide my scratching. I would tap my legs and arms with pens, my hands, rulers, and almost anything I could use to suppress the itching.
Eventually, I noticed that my hands and legs had started to get mottled with raised red maps. That was when I finally brought it to my doctor, who diagnosed it as cold urticaria and prescribed low-dose allergy medication. With the medication, my itching does not flare up, but if I shower with cold water, my feet start itching; if I wash dishes with cold water, my hands itch; if I walk outside in winter without gloves, my hands eventually start itching; but as long as I don’t forget to take my medication, the itching is limited and controlled. The worst part, of course, is that I love winters and cold weather.
I leave my windows open a crack in winter so that my room (and my whole apartment) stays nice and cool, and in summer, I throw open all my windows and balcony door and keep four electric fans circulating the air and cooling it down.
People ask me if would ever go back to the Philippines and my answer is always an emphatic no. I know I would not survive in the heat–I visited once in January–the coldest month of the year there, averaging 18-20 degrees Celsius (perfect summer temperature here!)–and was walking around in shorts and tank tops or light shirts while everyone around me wore jackets and sweaters while I was dripping sweat. I slept with a window open and a fan facing me directly while my friends spent the night covered with blankets. Was I ever glad to come home to PEI where it was winter!
Cold urticaria be damned, I will have my deliciously cold sheets and cool rooms!