The headline of this post is exactly right. I’m allergic to the cold. The medical term is Cold Urticaria.Thanks to the brilliant minds of Diane Sanfilippo and Karen Pendegrass as well as my own thoughts, I believe Cold Urticaria is an autoimmune condition. This wikipedia article describes what I have been going through perfectly.
How the hell did this happen? Why did I go from feeling like I was on top of the world on all fronts, when I first began eating Paleo on April 5, 2010, to having an autoimmune condition that causes me to break out in hives when my skin comes in contact with a cold stimulus?
My cold allergy all began when a bee decided to run into me while running. I don’t run. Yet I was running. I was also wearing a sleeveless shirt. I don’t wear sleeveless shirts. The stinger drilled into me near my left shoulder. I immediately reacted and flicked the bee away. It all took place in a split second. But it got me. It stung but I felt ok. The sting did not really hurt; it was just annoying.
After about 3 days the sting began to swell up a little bit. Then it got worse and worse. I was now “camping” with my siblings. We rented a boat to go fishing (we caught one tiny fish the entire weekend) and it was hot. Really really hot. And sunny. I decided to take my shirt off to soak up the sun. I put on no sunscreen. I ditched sunscreen when I went Paleo (I have not gotten burnt since April 2011 and have been out in the sun A LOT fyi).
Then, within hours, the swelling began to go away. It was HUGE before I soaked up the sun, and was itchy now and then, but the following morning was like a miracle. It had nearly vanished.
One day passed. Then I decided to play my brother 1 on 1 in basketball in the intense 90 degree heat with intense sunlight. And we played intensely. All this intensity was a bit too much. We both over did it but it was a lot of fun.
Then I took a freezing cold shower.
The next day my hands were all itchy. I had no idea why. I was using cold water to wash my hands instead of warm but I did not think much of it. My back was itchy too. That evening I decided to look into the mirror. This is when I thought that I was perhaps breaking out in hives.
The next morning I was a mess. I had broken out all over my entire body. It kept getting worse. I did not know what to do because the research I did online was conflicting. Some said to take a warm bath and others said cold. I decided to sit out in the sun and put ice on my back. Neither worked.
In the late afternoon my Father mentioned vinegar. So I slathered on apple cider vinegar. That worked brilliantly. How brilliantly? Take a look at the photo below. The picture on the left is of me at my worst. The picture on the right was taken within 24 hours of me slathering on apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar makes my hives go away nearly immediately. What a damn lifesaver! Thanks Dad!
Why am I breaking out in hives?
Is it food? Some foods like bananas release histamine in the body. Too much histamine in the body causes hives. I eat a lot of bananas so I ditched them. I then ditched other histamine releasing foods. But I kept getting hives. After 5 weeks I could not make any strong correlation. Everyone had their ideas but I knew deep down that everyones ideas were all wrong.
On September 7 I went to a small blue cottage on Lake Michigan with my family for a weekend. On that same day I broke out in hives only on my feet after taking a walk along the water.
You’ve got to be kidding me. Is it honestly possible that exposure to the cold is what is causing me to break out in hives?
Yup. I thought that immediately. I decided to test myself. I was playing frisbee with my brother in law (that’s your hubby Alisha!) and broke out on my arms. It was in the 60s but quite windy. I took another walk along the water and broke out again only on my feet.
Then I went swimming. The correlation between my hive breakouts and a cold stimulus, a perfect 3 for 3, so I decided to really test myself. The water was not freezing cold. It was cool to luke warm. I was just moving around for about 15 minutes then decided to finally get out. As I was walking towards the beach I felt itchy all over my body. It was literally immediate; within a split second of taking my upper body out of the water.
Then I stepped and walked onto the dry beach and my brother and his girlfriend and myself literally watched my body break out in hives in just a few minutes time.
That’s it! There is no way around this truth now. Exposure to cold water or air is what causes my hives.
I suggested this idea to my family and they all thought I was crazy. Sure, I’m crazy. I don’t eat grains and think saturated fat is heart healthy.
It turns out I was exactly right. I did not think I was allergic to the cold at that time but I knew what was causing my hives. It took my family 2-3 weeks to believe me but it is literally as clear as 1+1=2, so if anyone is still skeptical then they believe nothing is true in today’s world.
I thought back to when I had broken out with hives and when my hands and/or feet got itchy and red. In more than 100 cases, there was a PERFECT correlation.
I did more research and learned about Cold Urticaria. The wikipedia article describes what I am going through perfectly.
Sick for 2+ weeks (thanks bee)
Before the bee sting, I had been sick one time in the past 8 to 10 years. I’m not joking. I don’t get sick. The only time was when my brother was very sick. I was staying with him at his condo in Chicago in January and it was nearly impossible for me to avoid catching his cold. This only lasted a few days though.
I went back to Chicago (Click here to join the awesome Primal/Paleo Chicago meetup group!) about a month ago. I arrived on Friday which brought rain, wind and temperatures in the 50′s. That first night I woke up in the middle of the night with throbbing headaches. I was all sweaty too. I normally sleep like a baby so this was beyond crazy for me.
The next day brought sunshine with temps around 60 degrees. I woke up that night too with a few headaches and was sweating a little.
On Sunday night I woke up early with a throbbing sore throat. The feeling I had was like none before. Thankfully the weather brought sunny skies and temps in the 60′s, but man was I feeling it. I was gargling honey salt water over and over again. I was eating a lot of food because that eased my pain too.
The sore throat got better after 2 days but that lead into other symptoms of the common cold. Most of it was me blowing my nose for 2 weeks more often than ever in my entire existence. I’m almost serious. It was really bad.
I also coughed when I went outside in the cold.
This lasted about 2 weeks. I then felt great all day long but decided to test my cold allergy outside. So I went outside in about 58 degree weather to take a short walk. I began talking to myself out loud like I usually do (when you think out loud you remember more) and began coughing. I couldn’t stop either. I had not coughed all day but within 5 minutes of walking I was coughing. I went back inside after about a 15 minute walk and the coughing stopped.
Ok. Wow. So not only do I get hives when my skin is exposed to a cold stimulus but I cough too. Sweet.
Hives in Austin, Texas?
Yes. Because of my awesome allergy (no, really, it is awesome in so many ways) I decided to fly to Austin, Texas. The climate for October into November is perfect for my condition. Or so I thought…
I broke out in hives from walking home one night in 62 degree temperatures. I broke out from holding carrot juice for more than a few minutes. I broke out in hives from the cool 50 degree temperatures when the massive cold front hit Texas.
It’s difficult to avoid. Wearing layers did not work while I was raking leaves in Grand Rapids, MI. I got sweaty which causes me to break out too.
Yet I could not be more blessed. I’m typing this article in the downtown Austin library because I got stung by a bee. I am coming back here after Thanksgiving and will be living in Hawaii, Florida, Southern California or south America in January and February, all because I was stung by a bee. I’ll then be here (Austin) in March and April for PaleoFX and fun. Then it’s the low carb cruise for my 25th birthday in early May!
All because I was stung by a bee.
If I had NOT been stung by a bee then I strongly believe I would NOT be allergic to the cold. These things don’t just happen. There is always a reason.
If I was NOT allergic to the cold then I would either be in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Chicago, Illinois. This would be fine and dandy but I love Austin like you wouldn’t believe. It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I needed. And so I needed to get stung by a bee on that sunny Saturday morning.
Is there more to the story?
Yes there most definitely is. I’ll spread the butter over the coming weeks. The bee sting triggered my autoimmune condition which is Cold Urticaria. There are underlying issues inside my body that allowed my bee sting to do significant damage.
I believe that part of it is the fact that it was so damn hot this Summer. Grand Rapids, MI rarely sees days in the 90′s. However, this Summer had about 35 days where it hit 90. My body is not used to that. I was experimenting with cold showers to boot! This is beyond extreme.
I have been one to sleep like a baby my entire life. However, this Summer was completely different. My excitement was through the roof which was causing me to wake up at around 5 am most mornings. I woke up before 4 am twice just from excitement.
Me not getting the sleep my body needed led me to begin drinking poor quality coffee daily. I drank about 10 oz for 12 straight days. My body was not used to this. This was me adding lots of stress to my system. I continued this cycle for a couple of months. Little sleep and a cup or 2 of coffee. I ate decent but probably consumed too little meat and too much fruit. I was also exercising intensely which is stressful to the body.
On top of all that, I have not eaten well during the winter months of 2010 – 2011 and 2011 – 2012. This year will be the completely opposite for dozens of reasons; the main one being the fact that I do have Cold Urticaria which I think is an autoimmune condition.
I ain’t gonna mess around this time!
I’ll be diving into these points in more detail in the coming weeks as well as discussing what has been really going on with my condition and what my plan is to heal myself. Millions suffer from this exact same condition so how awesome would it be to be the first human being to know how to cure Cold Urticaria?
It would toadally kick some ass!
This is fascinating stuff. When I tell people that I am allergic to the cold they either think I am crazy, lying or that I just don’t like the cold (thanks Jessie Speilvogel). Once they take 5 minutes to learn about Cold Urticaria (whether it’s from me talking about it or them reading it from an article they found on google) they become more curious.
It took weeks for my family to believe me and I don’t blame them. I never knew this condition existed until September of this year. But this is where we have come folks. You can actually be allergic to the heat and the sun too. We are so damn sick that allergies like these are popping up more and more.
Sure, it’s unfortunate that I am sick. But it’s also one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. I now know the suffering that folks go through. I know how difficult it can be to change your eating habits. I think I know what it takes to heal myself. And, if I am successful, then I can help millions around the world with my own personal experience and knowledge that I will be forever accumulating.
We live in sick times but we also live with the internet – the greatest tool that enables a community as great as Paleo to literally change the world for the better in a fashion that no other person or group of people has ever done before.
Avoiding the cold,