Awareness * Advocacy * Research

Description of Primary CCU

Cold Contact Urticaria (Primary CCU) is a disorder of the skin that within five to ten minutes leads to reddening of the surface (erythema, wheals), swelling of the area of contact (hives/welts), intense itching and may include burning, all following exposure to cold temperatures.

Triggers

Weather, liquids and objects.  It is the most common form of physical urticaria.  The reaction may occur while exposed to cold, but more often while rewarming.

Symptoms

Itching and reddening of the skin usually develop first, followed by a burning sensation. Hives appear, usually lasting 30 minutes.

The affected person may also experience Systemic symptoms:

  • Neurological Symptoms: Headache, Anxiety
  • Heart: Rapid and Irregular Heartbeat, Palpitations, Fainting, Fluctuations in Blood Pressure
  • Respiratory: Wheezing, Shortness of Breath, Asthma Like Symptoms
  • Digestive: Abdominal pain, Gastrointestinal Upset, Vomiting, Diarrhea
  • Cutaneous: Angioedema, Acrocyanosis
  • Life Threatening: Anaphylaxis, Shock (hypotension (drop in blood pressure), lethargy, collapse and even death may occur).

Links to websites for further research
Mayo Clinic
National Organization for Rare Disorders: Urticaria, Cold
Dr. Greene: Cold Allergies and What Can Be Done About Them
About.com: Cold Urticaria
Dermnet NZ: Cold Urticaria
Aliases and Classifications

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Nuggets of Wisdom

Yes, there is such a thing as having an allergic type reaction to temperatures. This is defined as a physical urticaria. Other physical urticarias include Solar, Aquagenic, Pressure, Vibration and Exercise.

Most reactions are pseudo-allergic. By definition, an allergy involves inhaling or consuming an allergen. Physical urticarias have no known allergen. Despite the terminology and medical definitions, systemic reactions can be life threatening.

Cold has an arbitrary definition based on an individual feeling. For a person with a cold urticaria, cold can be defined as any temperature cooler than their own body temperature.

You do not have to be cold to have a reaction to the cold; contact with cold can trigger a reaction.

You can have an allergic type reaction to both cold and heat simultaneously.

Most reactions considered anaphylactic are really anaphylactoid by definition.

Moving to a warmer climate as a treatment for Cold Urticaria is a myth. Warmer climates present their own issues for those with Cold Urticaria.

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