Could you be allergic to the cold? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Could you be allergic to the cold?


No doubt - it's been a long, snowy and cold winter. Many of us are just downright over it, but could you be allergic to the cold?  Doctors say, "Yes."

Allergist Dr. James Harris said, "We have a lot of people complaining about their asthma this time of year when they get out and do anything outside. Much more than a typical winter."

Dr. Harris said much like an allergy to pollen or cat dander can cause an asthma attack so can the cold.

His patient Bobbie Guernsey knows this all too well.  "My lungs have been fluttering a lot in the cold," she says. "Every time you go outside and take a deep breath, it just catches your breath, and I would literally choke on my own breath. And then I would feel that heart attack feeling."

But cold can do more than trigger an asthma attack.  "There's another group of patients who get hives from the cold," said Dr. Harris.

Yes, that's right. All this cold weather makes some people break out in hives, and Harris said it can happen in just a matter of minutes.  "When it's cold - like this - they have to be very careful to cover up and bundle up, cover their face, cover their hands, any exposed skin can break out."

And for those who are allergic, it's not just to cold weather but to cold in general.  "Some are so extreme that even getting out of the shower they'll start to break out in hives," said Dr. Harris. "They have to worry about getting in a pool in the summer cause cold water in a pool can set them off."

Harris said having an allergic or asthmatic reaction to cold is preventable. You can take medicine before you go outside, or he said hope for spring because that's when a lot of the problems will subside.

For Bobbie, she's thinking bigger than spring.  "I want to skip spring and go straight to summer," she says. "I'm want pure hot. I'm ready for just hot weather."

If your asthma is triggered by the cold, Dr. Harris said that will be pretty obvious.  You'll be coughing, wheezing or have chest discomfort.

Breaking out in hives from the cold is also pretty obvious, but Dr. Harris said they do have a test to determine that.  It's the ice cube test.  They put an ice cube on your forearm, and if you're allergic, a welt will form in five minutes. If you're not allergic, you'll just be cold.

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