Some people go to Florida in the winter because they don't like the cold weather and snow. One local woman has a much more severe reaction.
She says anything cold makes her sick and could even kill her. It's a condition called severe chronic cold urticaria. To make it simple, she says she's allergic to the cold.
For most of us having to go out in the cold weather just means wearing more layers, hats, and gloves. But for one Altoona woman, it can be sickening.
Brenda Dick says, "usually, the first sign is the itching, welts, wheals and hives. If I'm not careful more hives come out." She says diarrhea, nause, vomiting, and dizzness can result, and in extreme cases, her throat closes.
Allergist Dr. Jeffrey Rosch says, "although usually it's an annoyance, in some people it can interfere with function and it can potentially be life-threatening, if the swelling would happen to occur in the airway."
Brenda always keeps her EpiPen close by to stop that type of attack. She puts blankets in her van in winter, and also has a handicapped placard so that she can minimize her time in the outdoors. She's upset that some people criticize her for parking in handicapped spots because she doesn't show any visible medical problems.
The condition can be an issue even in summer because the change in temperature causes the symptoms.
Dr. Rosch remembers, "I had a patient many years ago, who had this, who jumped into a quarry with very cold water and almost died."
Brenda says, "when I do dishes, my hands break out, when I'm taking baths, its jump in, get the water as hot as you can, and as soon as you jump out, you're toweling yourself off."
According to Dr. Rosch, cold urticaria isn't technically an allergy but since it causes the release of histamines, it's treated with antihistamines and other allergy medications.
Brenda says these treatments don't work for her, so she uses her own winter weather warning system. "People kepe tabs on where I am at all times. I do not travel alone in the winter months."
Dr Rosch says cold urticaria isn't rare, but most people don't report problems as severe as Brenda's. He says in some people hot temperatures can bring on hives and swelling.