Allergic to the cold… for real

A teenager has to be extra vigilant when going out since she developed a rare allergy… to the cold. A headache as much during polar temperatures, in winter, as for swimming, in summer.

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“The first time it happened to me, I found myself with a very intense skin reaction, I did not understand what was happening to me because the only thing I had done was go to the cold explains Eryn Margolese, a 15-year-old girl who lives in Hampstead, on the island of Montreal.

It was after this outing in March 2020 that the young girl noticed that her legs and arms were covered with red patches. Accompanied by her parents, she goes to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Not a soap

At first, the doctors thought it was washing powder or a new soap, says the young girl. And it is finally after carrying out a test with an ice cube placed on his skin that the diagnosis falls.

Only 0.1% of Canadians suffer from this disease, explains his doctor, Dr.r Moshe Ben-Shoshan, the allergist-immunologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

According to him, this condition is underdiagnosed.

“The cold activates a substance in the skin that will activate the immune system, as with an allergy to pollen, for example,” he explains.

In most cases, people who have what is also called “cold urticaria” end up with rashes, itching, redness and swelling.

Switch from hot to cold

“It’s not just the cold that causes it, temperature changes can also be responsible. So it can be triggered when you jump into cold water, stand near an air conditioner or drink a cold drink, ”says the man who has been studying this disease for 12 years.

In rare cases, some may even experience anaphylactic shock that can lead to death, such as with a peanut allergy, he explains.

About 20% of children with cold urticaria will have a life-threatening reaction, he adds.

For Eryn, the diagnosis has consequences for her life and her hobbies.

“In the summer, at summer camp, I can no longer swim in the lakes or go kayaking, because I’m afraid of having anaphylactic shock. In winter, I really have to be very vigilant, wear lots of layers of clothes and not let my skin stick out, ”explains the one who always carries an EpiPen with her, in addition to taking antihistamines, the only known remedy.

Despite the intense winter, the disease does not bother the young girl enough to think of leaving the country one day.

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