Cold Urticaria (or, Doctor, what is this rash?)

For the past two weeks, I’ve been having some problems. See, we’ve just started to get some cold weather here. As a result, my hands and feet have been getting cold, both inside and outside.

This, of course, has happened every other year. However, this year, my 19th of dealing with the cold, something seems to be amiss:

Whenever my hands and feet (and, apparently, also the face, to some extent) get cold, they get red. My hands especially get swollen (this also happens if I handle something cold for more than a few seconds). Then, if they start to warm up a bit, they get really itchy, and get hives. The affected areas are pretty much always warm to the touch and are always very red. It can last as short as maybe half an hour, or up to like 3 hours. When I got it on my face, the swelling wasn’t horribly bad, but I did have a couple of welts that quickly went away.

I’ve googled the symptoms, and it seems that, according to what I’ve found, I have cold urticaria. This sounds, basically, like it’s an allergy to the cold or something. Since I live in northern Illinois/Indiana, and it’s only friggin’ October, this doesn’t sound good.

So, basically, I have a bunch of questions about this thing:

1.) Will it go away?
2.) Could it be anything else? I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, but it’s doubtful that I’ll actually get a diagnosis, 'cause I’m in the HMO from Hell, and will probably be referred to someone else, who I won’t be able to visit since I’m at school. However, my symptoms match the cold urticaria symptoms exactly. I even did the ice cube test (wish that I HADN’T though)
3.) Assuming that this IS what I have, what can I do to treat it? Never getting my hands cold is, simply put, not an option, since (again) I live in a part of the country that is inclined to get very cold. Will the doctor give me medicine or something?
4.)One of the sites that I went to mentioned that there’s a danger of dying from this if I go into cold water, or get cold all over (like when I get out of a pool) or something. How much of a threat is that? I mean, okay, the hand swelling sucks, and I can see how, if it were my throat, I could be in some danger, but still…would I have to carry one of those weird pens around with me?

Thanks y’all. I have to stop typing now, because it’s freezing down here, and so my hands are swollen and itching like a mofo.

Dsclaimer: IANAD

First of all, gloves, hat, a ski mask are definite requirements for the near future here in Indiana.

Second, “cold urticaria” is more of a symptom than an end diagnosis. I mean, it may be that’s the only thing amiss, but it could be part of something larger. If the HMO doc seems reluctant to help, scream for a referral, be loud, make noise - given how cold it gets around here, you definitely need some answers/help on this one.

Third, if your entire body breaks out in hives your blood pressure could drop and you could go into shock - it has to do with how the flushing/swelling mechanism draws fluid out of your bloodstream. Pull out enough fluid, you collapse. Granted, you do actually leak out onto the floor, but essentially your blood vessels are leaking out into the intracelluar spaces. Google on things like “angioedema” for more information.

Fouth, I don’t know what treatments are available

Fifth, if this gets real serious moving to a warmer climate should be strongly considered.

My condolences on the health problem :frowning:

When dealing with an HMO, especially one “from Hell”, remember to behave like a rabid porcupine and stick up for your rights. :smiley:

Googling “cold urticaria treatment”, sounds serious. More info:

So, print this out, take it to the doctor, be an Alert Consumer and don’t let him fob you off with a prescription for “pills”.

Keep us posted.


It definitly sounds like Urticaria. I had it. Mine was dairy realted. Read about it here (DDG contributed to that thread, as well).

Update: for the past 3-4 months have I slowly begun to eat dairy again (I’m enjoying a chocolate chip cookie right now!) without incident. I’m not really sure how long my urticaria lasted as I was always taking Zantac/Zyrtec and avoiding dairy.

As for your case, I’d visit a doctor and start trying different combinations of H1 and H2 blockers. It may take a bit to find the right combo/dose, but when you do, it should control the symptoms (hives/swelling/etc). Until then, I’d go with Broomsticks advice and buy some gloves and a ski-mask.

Lastly, know that you’re not the only one out there with this.

Sorry, I didn’t reply–the past few days have been busy for other, non-rash related reasons.

I do indeed have cold urticaria. The HMO doctor was competent, and she put me on Zyrtec. She’s also running a crapload of bloodtests to see if there’s any underlying cause. It might actually be caused by the B.C. pills I’m on right now. If it’s a choice between this, hellish mood swings (which is what I had on Depo), and taking my chances…well, I’ll choose this any day, TYVM.

Anyway…the doctor told me pretty much everything I need to know…so I guess the mods can close this thread (or maybe move it to IMHO…you know, seeing as there might still be stuff I don’t know about this, and I’d REALLY like to know if anyone here has had it).

Graz all!