Al­ler­gic to the cold

While many peo­ple don’t like it, some are ac­tu­ally al­ler­gic to cold tem­per­a­tures

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - BY PA­TRICK MUR­PHY Pa­trick.mur­phy@tc.tc

Lewis­porte High School Stu­dent Ki­ley Wells used to fly up and down the ice in pro­vin­cial fig­ure skat­ing com­pe­ti­tions, un­til she learned it could be life-threat­en­ing.

“I like to call it cold hives, that’s what my doc­tor al­ways calls it,” Wells told the Pi­lot. “I don’t know what the tech­ni­cal name is.”

The tech­ni­cal name is cold ur­ticaria, which ba­si­cally means cold hives. The dis­or­der causes large red welts form on the skin af­ter ex­po­sure to a cold. The welts are usu­ally itchy and often the hands and feet will be­come itchy and swollen as well.

It is an al­lergy, to the cold. Those are the same symp­toms first ex­pe­ri­enced by Wells. She be­gan fig­ure skat­ing at age two, and by the time her symp­toms be­gan to take hold in 2011 she held re­gional and pro­vin­cial ti­tles, and was named Can­skater of the Year in New­found­land.

“I would go to the rink and the more you would sweat, the colder the air. Tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence is the worst,” said Wells.

The first sus­pect for her hives was laun­dry de­ter­gent. Wells says she was al­ways known as ‘the one with sen­si­tive skin,’ and when chang­ing de­ter­gents didn’t do the trick, they looked at other sus­pects.

“Dad said, ‘well maybe it’s some­thing from the Zam­boni’, so I waited and got on the ice a lit­tle bit later,” said Wells. “Af­ter a lit­tle bit…, noth­ing changed, so I said to Mom, ‘do you think it could be the cold’, and she just laughed at me.”

How­ever a spe­cial­ist ap­point­ment was made, and the rare di­ag­no­sis con­firmed. While Wells does not, and can­not com­pete any longer, the con­fir­ma­tion al­lowed her to take steps to pro­tect her­self.

The sever­ity of cold ur­ticaria symp­toms can vary widely. Some peo­ple have mi­nor re­ac­tions to cold, while oth­ers have se­vere re­ac­tions. Swim­ming in cold water is the most com­mon cause of a whole-body (sys­temic) re­ac­tion and can lead to very low blood pres­sure, faint­ing, shock and even death.

Wells has an Epipen in case her symp­toms be­come too se­vere. Just like with other al­ler­gies, the Epipen can pre­vent ana­phy­lac­tic shock and save Wells’ life dur­ing an episode.

It is a chal­lenge though, many peo­ple just do not un­der­stand, or are will­ing to ac­cept, a cold al­lergy.

“They kind of brush it off, (like) this is not a thing, I’m like, I am 100 per cent se­ri­ous,” said Wells. “Or, ‘well I’m al­ler­gic to the cold too.’”

Even at­ten­dance at her high school grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony was in doubt at one point. The high school tra­di­tion­ally holds the cer­e­mony at the town sta­dium, but there is also usu­ally no heat in the build­ing. A lack of heat­ing would mean Wells would not be able to at­tend the event in a gown, but rather would have re­quired bundling up.

“Be­lieve it or not, not all of my teach­ers know (about the al­lergy), which is prob­a­bly not a good thing,” said Wells with a laugh. “We were re­ally ner­vous at first be­cause the girls walk around in their dresses and I would not be able to do that. All of my grad pic­tures would be me in a blan­ket and I don’t want that.”

Af­ter some nega­tions, Wells says the school has agreed to en­sure the heat will be on this year at the sta­dium. Wells will be there too, in her gown, en­joy­ing her grad­u­a­tion with all the other stu­dents.

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