For a week now, Doreen Nshabohurira, 26, hardly finds sleep at night. She spends much of the time at night looking at the ceiling wondering what to do.
She says every time she bathes cold water or is exposed to cold weather, she gets body itches and scratches herself endlessly, but the more she does this (scratch herself), the more the swellings intensify.
However, the condition does not affect the entire body; it only affects her arms, thighs and back and does not know if it is the cold weather causing this.
“I do not know what is happening to me, but I think it is a reaction towards coldness. I do not remember eating anything strange,” says Nshabohurira
“The problem is more common during the cold times like at night or morning before the sun becomes strong,” she adds
She says she used to shower hot water for long because of what she suspects is allergies to cold water, but then stopped and started bathing cold water for two months, and everything was normal. The problem has just started during this time.
“I was told to first observe the causes and monitor to see how it progresses before I see the doctor. But I’m trying much to avoid cold water and cold things,” she says
She has resorted to putting on long dresses and a sweater all day, and the itching has reduced, she is seeking for answers.
Dr. Aggrey Murangira, a general doctor at Jinja Hospital says Nshabohurira’s condition is as a result of allergic reaction to the cold, a condition medically known as cold urticarial or cold induced urticarial.
He explains that when skin which is allergic to cold water or weather comes into contact with either or both of them, it becomes reddish or develops itchy welts (hives).
It is important to note that the severity of cold urticarial symptoms varies widely. Swimming in cold water is the most common cause of a whole-body (systemic) reaction. This could lead to very low blood pressure, fainting, shock and even death.
“She does not need to worry, it simply means her body is hypersensitive to the cold environment, which is also known as allergic reaction,” he says
“When the reaction is unbearable, occasionally some drugs like antihistamines are prescribed to reduce the discomfort,” he adds
He however points out that most important, some allergic reactions are self-limiting. They improve without any medication.
Furthermore, he says people who allergic to cold water/weather ought to consult with doctors to establish when such reactions started; adding that sometimes, it happens when there is change of environment.
Some of the symptoms of cold urticaria
Temporary reddish, itchy skin rash welts (hives) on the area of skin that was exposed to cold, swollen hands, swollen mouth and swollen hands when holding cold objects, and swelling of lips and throat when consuming cold food or drink.
He also says in severe circumstances, the allergy may come with swelling of the throat and tongue which may in turn make breathing difficult. In addition, the condition may also come with anaphylaxis, this when the fully-body reacts to the allergen
Tips on dealing with the reaction
Dr. Murangira says the most important step in treating allergies is to identify what triggers them. He says the best treatment for cold urticaria involves avoiding the cold, when possible, and taking antihistamines. These are best taken before exposure to the cold temperatures to block some of the histamine release.
Avoid cold weather condition, ensure to put on warm clothing during the windy/cold weather as this will help a great deal; cover neck and face with scarf, then try as much as possible to avoid cold drinks/ foods as this may trigger the reactions
Do not swim in cold water especially during windy conditions because so much skin is exposed to the cold during this time, then consult a specialist(skin doctor) if the symptoms are not going away after a few days