By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Record cold is in the forecast. Frigid weather is difficult for all of us and can be dangerous, even deadly. But some people are actually allergic to cold weather. Many of us are uncomfortable in the cold, but for Fatima Anwar it’s especially frightening. “I started feeling tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing,” she explained. Outside in the cold her face burned and there were welts on her cheeks. Finally she got a surprising diagnosis from an allergist, “They did an ice cube test which was the strangest thing and I welted up and they said you’re allergic to the cold.”
Dr. Deeba Masood says cold allergies are rare. It’s not known what triggers them and they may come on suddenly and become life threatening. “It can range from hives all the way up swelling of the airways,” Dr. Masood says.
Doctors say it’s not just the weather, cold drinks or food can be a problem for people with the allergy and so can washing your hands or swimming cold water.
Anwar says, “I constantly worry about getting stranded on the road somewhere. Because being exposed to the cold for really like even more than a few minutes, 5 minutes and it’s really frigid out, that can cause a bad reaction.” Now she takes an antihistamine every day to help prevent reactions and carries an EpiPen for an emergency. Plus she avoids exposing her skin to damp cold weather. “I’m hoping by like April it warms up, so I can’t wait for April,” Anwar says.
Doctors say about 15 to 25 percent of Americans become allergic to the cold at some point in their lives.