Can You Be Allergic to Chilly Air?


In Denver, Colorado, a 34-year-old man stepped out of a heat bathe and was met with a rush of chilly air from his lavatory — a well-known expertise for many individuals through the fall and winter months. On this case, nonetheless, what’s for many the feeling of a quick chill became a critical and doubtlessly life-threatening allergic response often known as anaphylaxis.1

Along with turning into coated in hives, the person struggled to breathe and was transported through ambulance to the division of emergency medication on the Denver Well being Medical Middle. There, he arrived with low blood strain and shortness of breath brought on by publicity to chilly air after getting out of the bathe.2

The situation, often known as chilly urticaria, is one thing emergency physicians ought to concentrate on, medical doctors wrote in a case examine revealed in The Journal of Emergency Medication, as it could alter obligatory affected person care and should even be induced by chilly IV infusions, resulting in sudden declines in critically unwell sufferers.3

Sure, Chilly Air Allergic reactions Exist

Whereas urticaria, or hives that seem all of the sudden, is believed to have an effect on about 20% of individuals throughout their lifetimes,4 chilly urticaria, or an allergy to chilly temperatures, is comparatively uncommon, with a reported prevalence of 0.05%.5 Writing in UpToDate, Dr. Marcus Maurer, professor of dermatology and allergy at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, defined:6

“Chilly urticaria is characterised by pruritic wheals (hives) and/or angioedema as a consequence of cutaneous mast cell degranulation and launch of proinflammatory mediators after chilly publicity of the pores and skin.

Triggers embrace pores and skin contact with chilly objects, chilly liquids, and chilly air. The underlying pathophysiology is essentially unknown however is prone to contain immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated mast cell activation.”

With reported circumstances courting again to 1866, signs usually happen minutes after publicity of the pores and skin to chilly air, liquid or objects and are normally native, however anaphylaxis can even happen, particularly if a big space of the physique is uncovered to chilly temperatures, akin to happens throughout swimming in chilly water.

It’s been urged that almost all circumstances are self-limiting, resolving in 4 to 5 years. Nonetheless, different analysis discovered solely 25% of these affected have their signs resolve inside 10 years.7 

One other examine, which adopted sufferers with chilly urticarial from 1995 to 2015, revealed that whereas 22% reported their situation had resolved and 23% mentioned it had improved, 55% mentioned the illness remained secure or worsened over the examine interval.8 In different phrases, there are extra questions than solutions on the subject of chilly urticaria, together with its underlying trigger.

Usually, chilly urticarial happens and not using a household historical past of the situation, which suggests it’s not usually an inherited situation. Typically, the occasion happens with none apparent set off, though infectious illness, insect bites, sure drugs and blood cancers have been famous as potential elements.9

Younger adults are mostly affected, however at the least one case examine exists of a 9-year-old boy who developed chilly urticarial after swimming within the ocean.10 One examine additionally discovered that girls could also be affected twice as usually as males.11

Indicators and Signs of Chilly Urticaria

Signs linked to chilly urticaria fluctuate from individual to individual. Some individuals might have delicate reactions with few signs whereas others expertise a number of signs and life-threatening anaphylaxis. Indicators and signs embrace:12

Crimson, itchy rash after publicity to chilly

Swelling within the space uncovered to chilly


Extreme allergic response (anaphylaxis)

Hassle respiratory


Passing out

Analysis is usually primarily based on these attribute indicators and signs, however a chilly stimulation check may additionally be executed during which an ice dice or different chilly object is positioned towards the pores and skin for one to 5 minutes. If a purple, swollen rash develops inside a couple of minutes of publicity, chilly urticaria is recognized.13

Blood assessments may additionally be given to search for associated ailments. In a single examine of fifty sufferers at an allergy observe in Vancouver, Canada, recognized with cold-induced urticarial, 32% had co-occurring bodily urticarias whereas 52% had secondary allergy diagnoses.14

As a result of the situation can have a adverse impression on high quality of life, the first objective of therapy is to alleviate signs. Nonetheless, by way of prevention, avoiding publicity to chilly is the simplest choice.15 In a single evaluation of 99 sufferers over a 20-year interval, most relied on life-style modifications akin to chilly avoidance to regulate signs in lieu of remedy.16

When this isn’t potential, antihistamines are typically advisable previous to chilly exposures and people affected may additionally carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) to make use of within the occasion of anaphylaxis.17 Within the featured case examine, as an illustration, physicians famous:18

“He required two doses of intramuscular epinephrine and was in the end began on an epinephrine infusion. He was admitted to the intensive care unit for anaphylaxis monitoring and was discovered to have a optimistic ice dice check, reinforcing the suspected analysis.”

Largest Examine to Date Sheds Mild on Urticaria in Kids

A examine of kids 18 years or youthful recognized with acquired cold-induced urticaria (ACU) at Boston Kids’s Hospital shed some mild on the situation on this age group.19 From 1996 to 2017, 415 sufferers, aged 4 months to 18.3 years, had been recognized with ACU. The bulk (78.3%) had a historical past of atopic illness whereas 25.8% had different urticaria.

A lot of the circumstances (about two-thirds) led to solely localized (Grade 1) signs, whereas 14% had signs that unfold all through the physique (Grade 2) and 18.6% skilled anaphylaxis (Grade 3). In essentially the most extreme circumstances, which concerned anaphylaxis, swimming was the famous set off in 77.6% of circumstances whereas the remainder had been brought on by ingestion of chilly meals or drinks or publicity to chilly air or water.

The chilly stimulation check (CST, such because the ice dice check described above), was used for analysis in 61.7% of sufferers, and was optimistic in 69.9%. The examine authors defined:20

“Within the largest examine up to now on ACU, grade 3 reactions occurred in a few fifth of sufferers. Optimistic CST consequence was related to the next danger for anaphylaxis from ACU. Epinephrine prescription and affected person/household counseling about danger elements for grade 3 reactions are advisable.”

Dwelling With Chilly Urticaria

In the event you’ve been recognized with chilly urticarial, you might have to keep away from exposing giant areas of your pores and skin to chilly water. Earlier than you go swimming, for instance, dip your hand within the water to see if a response happens earlier than leaping in, and don’t swim alone in chilly water.

You also needs to keep away from ice-cold meals and drinks and keep away from exposing your pores and skin to sudden modifications in temperature as a lot as potential. Damp and windy circumstances might make flare-ups extra possible, whereas whole-body exposures to chilly might result in extra extreme reactions. In the event you’ve been prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector, hold it with you in case of great reactions.21

Throughout chilly climate, you also needs to put on heat clothes and defend your pores and skin from publicity to the weather as a lot as potential. A shawl wrapped round your nostril and mouth, as an illustration, could also be useful.

As for various remedies, one examine urged that it could be potential to attain desensitization by exposing small areas of the pores and skin to chilly, akin to by washing your face with chilly water each morning and night. Nonetheless, “For bigger areas it may be a time-consuming process and requires shut scientific supervision,” researchers wrote within the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings.22

Different Triggers for Urticaria

Urticaria, generally often known as hives, seem as raised purple or skin-colored bumps on the pores and skin. They could be itchy and can flip white within the middle when pressed. Happily, cold-induced hives usually are not widespread, however they are often brought on by many different bodily triggers, together with publicity to warmth, strain or daylight. Train can even trigger urticaria, as can:23

Certain foods, particularly peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish

Medicines, together with antibiotics, aspirin and ibuprofen

Insect stings or bites


Blood transfusions

Bacterial infections, akin to urinary tract infections and strep throat

Viral infections, together with colds, mononucleosis and hepatitis

Pet dander



Emotional stress

As is the case with chilly urticaria, the very best answer to hives is to keep away from the set off that causes them. In circumstances the place the set off isn’t apparent, and the hives are power, occurring for greater than six weeks, talking with an allergist might assist.

Advantages and Dangers of Chilly Temperatures

Assuming you’re not allergic to the chilly, publicity to chilly temperatures might be helpful to your well being. Chilly temperatures might enable you burn physique fats, and mitochondrial biogenesis is straight concerned on this course of.24 Throughout publicity to chilly, your physique will increase manufacturing of norepinephrine within the mind, which is concerned in focus and a spotlight.

Colder temperatures enable you suppose extra clearly25 and researchers have discovered that folks carry out duties higher when the room temperature is about at a cooler setting then a hotter one.26 Among the easiest choices to harness the power of the cold in your well being embrace:

Making use of an ice pack or chilly gel pack

Making use of an iced towel (merely moist a towel and freeze it) or massaging with ice cubes

Taking a chilly bathe or alternating between cold and warm in your bathe

Taking an ice tub

Exercising in cold weather sporting few articles of clothes

Leaping into an unheated pool following sauna or train

Swimming within the ocean when water temperatures are low

Turning down the thermostat in your home within the winter to about 60 levels F

There are some caveats, nonetheless. Your danger of heart attack rises with publicity to the chilly as your blood strain and danger of dehydration improve.27 That is very true on days when pollution is excessive and temperatures are decrease.28 Additional, when you’ve got indicators of chilly urticaria, you’ll need to keep away from any pointless exposures to chilly air, water, meals or drinks.