Frost or illness? The doctor explained how to find out if you are allergic to cold | November 20, 2023

Source: AP 2023

With the onset of cold weather, your skin turns red and cracks, and do you feel worse and worse? Perhaps you are simply allergic to the cold! How to distinguish a normal human reaction to the onset of cold weather from a disease? Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Department of Pediatrics at Sechenov University, pediatrician, pulmonologist, allergist-immunologist Pavel Berezhansky told about this.

How does cold allergy manifest?

An allergy is a pathologically strong reaction of the immune system in response to some irritants. A cold allergy is a special type of allergic reaction in which low temperature is a triggering factor. Moreover, the reaction begins to manifest itself at a temperature of 5 degrees and in windy weather.

  • Symptoms of cold allergies develop most often in the following order:
  • redness (redness);
  • itching;
  • swelling (edema);
  • fever;
  • general weakness;
  • hoarseness of voice;

Then shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus and even convulsions may appear.

Cold urticaria – red rash, itching, burning in open areas (and maybe on mucous membranes).

Cold dermatitis – red elements in open areas – crack, crust and peel. They go away in 6-12 hours.

What is the cause of cold allergies?

The cause of an allergy to cold is a dysfunction of the body’s immune system. There are many factors that lead to a malfunction of the immune system. Therefore, it is very important to “assess and monitor your immunity” before the problem season begins.

The mechanism of development of cold allergy is very complex, but an important element is a change in the blood microcirculation system. In areas exposed to provoking factors (cold), blood flow slows down, the body perceives these areas as inflammation, and at the site of inflammation, a large number of inflammatory cells and mediators enter the tissue, which get stuck there and saturate the tissue. And then, with any contact with a provoking factor, a cold allergy clinic is implemented.

Who is at risk?

Children are especially susceptible to cold allergies: their skin is thinner and more abundantly supplied with blood, and in the cold the capillaries spasm (narrow) and the inflammatory process begins. Allergy symptoms appear some time after exposure to cold – for example, after a child touches cold objects or drinks cold drinks/food.

Also, cold allergies more often occur in people with a history (medical history – editor’s note) of herpes, diabetes, thyroid disease, widespread caries, and in those who have recently suffered a serious acute respiratory viral infection (flu is common in winter). In addition, people with severe dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system are at risk of becoming allergic to cold. Too dry skin is also a risk factor, as dryness intensifies in the cold. ⠀

How do you know if you are allergic to cold?

First of all, tell your doctor all the symptoms: when redness or rash appears, at what temperature. Describe what you are doing to save yourself, at what age it started, and whether your relatives have the same symptoms. It’s better to write all this down on a separate piece of paper so you don’t have to remember it at the appointment, and give it to the doctor, and he’ll ask clarifying questions.

More often, the patient comes to the doctor without signs of an allergic process. In this case, the doctor may perform a provocative test. A piece of ice is placed on the forearm (this is considered the most informative way of visual assessment). If redness and swelling appear on the skin within a short time after applying ice, we can say that this patient has an allergy to cold.

Diagnostics also includes: general blood test, general urinalysis, biochemical blood test; identification of cryoglobulin-sensitized lymphocytes; skin tests (to exclude concomitant allergies).

Blood tests may show eosinophilia and elevated IgE. But with mild degrees, all tests are normal. And severe cold allergies occur more often in allergy sufferers, which means that there will be changes in the tests.

How to treat allergies to cold?

We consult with a doctor, but we go to the doctor either with symptoms, or at least take a photo “how it was.” Treatment is the same as for standard urticaria. In extreme cases, autolymphocytotherapy is done – transfusion of one’s own blood. For children, 5-6 procedures are required – the effect is high! By the way, it also works for other types of allergies.

How to prevent the development of allergies to cold?

Since contact with the cold cannot be avoided, you need to dress adequately, lubricate exposed areas with protective cream, eat more foods with vitamins A (beef liver, carrots, butter, dried apricots, bell peppers, pumpkin), E (vegetable oils, seeds, nuts ), C (vegetables, fruits, berries) and PP (salmon, whole grain bread, chicken, turkey, beef liver) and do light local hardening.

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