Cold Urticaria – essentially meaning “cold hives” – is an allergy where hives (urticaria) or large red welts form on the skin after exposure to a cold stimulus. The welts are usually itchy and often the hands and feet will become itchy and swollen as well.
Hives vary in size from about 7.0mm in diameter to as big as about 27mm diameter or larger. The disease is classified as chronic when hives appear for longer than six weeks; they can last for life, though their course is often unpredictable.
This disorder, or perhaps two disorders with the same clinical manifestations, can be inherited (familial cold urticaria) or acquired (primary acquired cold urticaria). The acquired form is most likely to occur between ages 18–25, although it can occur as early as 5 years old in some cases.
What are colds and allergies?
Once a cold virus gets inside you, your immune system, the body’s defense against germs, launches a counter-attack. It’s this response that brings on the classic symptoms like a cough or stuffed up nose.
The viruses that cause colds are contagious. You can pick them up when someone who’s infected sneezes, coughs, or shakes hands with you. After a couple of weeks, at the most, your immune system fights off the illness and you should stop having symptoms.
It’s a different story with allergies. They’re caused by an overactive immune system. For some reason, your body mistakes harmless things, such as dust or pollen, for germs and attacks them.
When that happens, your body releases chemicals such as histamine, just as it does when fighting a cold. This can cause a swelling in the passageways of your nose, and you’ll start sneezing and coughing.
Treatment for cold allergy
Treatment of cold urticaria involves avoiding the cold, when possible, and taking antihistamines. The antihistamines are best taken before exposure to cold temperatures to block some of the histamine release. Taking a non-sedating medicine is recommended.