If you develop welts or an itchy rash on your skin after you come in from the cold or after getting out of a swimming pool, it may be an allergic reaction or condition known as cold urticaria. Symptoms usually start in early adulthood and may also include lightheadedness, a swelling in the throat and a burning sensation on the surface of the skin. 

Cold urticaria is often diagnosed by placing a cold object such as an ice cube or pack on the skin for five minutes. If you have cold urticaria, a raised, red bump (hive) will form a few minutes after the ice cube is removed.

In some cases, cold urticaria may be caused by an infection or some other underlying health problem that affects the immune system. If Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center suspects you have an underlying condition, blood tests may be done to determine if there are associated diseases.

In some people, cold urticaria goes away on its own after weeks or months. In others, it lasts longer. There is no cure for the condition, but treatment and preventive steps can help such as:

  • Staying warm. If you must go outside in colder months, cover up as much exposed skin as possible.
  • Identifying and avoiding other triggers. Cold might be one trigger, but if your skin is irritated throughout the winter, it might be from the clothes you wear (for example, wool), and even your laundry detergent or soap.
  • Taking medication. Dr. Cohn might recommend a daily nondrowsy antihistamine to control your allergic response. Glucocorticoid steroids are also sometimes used to provide hives relief.
  • Carrying an EpiPen. If you have had a severe, life-threatening response such as palpitations or wheezing, you will need to carry an epinephrine pen to self-administer in an emergency.

Most people rely on lifestyle changes to avoid flare-ups, but cold urticaria doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. If you have experienced potential symptoms of cold urticaria, set up a consultation with Dr. Monique S. Cohn online.