A mother-of-three who is allergic to the cold and has to spend all of winter ‘hibernating’ says the life-threatening condition has ruined her life.
Kelly Pouw, 26, from Waterloo, Ontario, suffers from cold urticaria, which is thought to be incurable and leaves her trapped inside her home, unable to play with her children.
Her condition, which could trigger a deadly anaphylactic shock, means Ms Pouw has to wear long-johns, three pairs of pants, four shirts, a neck warmer, scarf and mittens every time she drops her children off at the bus stop.
The stay-at-home mother, cannot even drink chilled drinks or be near air conditioning as she claims she breaks out in hives that can be the size of an apple, yet many people think her disorder is a joke.
Ms Pouw said: ‘I can pretty much say cold-induced urticaria has ruined my life.
‘Whenever the cold comes I go into hibernation mode, I stay inside as much as I can and rarely leave the house unless I have to.’
Cold urticaria affects around one in 100,000 people in the US.
Kelly Pouw is allergic to the cold and has to spend all of winter ‘hibernating’
Dropping her children at the bus stop requires Ms Pouw wears multiple layers of clothing
Being exposed to air conditioning or even chilled drinks causes her to break out in hives
The hives, which can be the size of an apple, first appeared on her arms and legs, then spread
Cold-induced urticaria has ruined my life
Ms Pouw said: ‘I can pretty much say cold-induced urticaria has ruined my life and while I’m hoping that it does eventually go away I’ve been told it most likely won’t.
‘My reactions are so severe that even when I stepped outside for a few seconds hives appear in less than a minute.
‘My hives range is size anywhere from a blueberry to the size of an apple, they are very itchy, and it feels like my skin is being pulled tight.
‘At first it just affected my arms and legs, but now it’s progressed to my hands, neck, ears, palms of my hands, stomach, feet and tongue.’
Ms Pouw says the condition has ruined her life and stops her playing with her three children
The hives are very itchy and make Ms Pouw’s skin feel as thought it is being stretched
Her reactions are so severe her skin can break out if she is in the cold for less than a minute
WHAT IS COLD URTICARIA?
Cold urticaria is a skin reaction that causes it to break out in hives when exposed to low temperatures.
Other symptoms include swelling of the hands when holding cold objects, and the lips and throat when drinking chilled beverages.
In severe cases when the entire body is affected, sufferers may experience fainting, a racing heart, shock, and swelling of the tongue and throat, which can prevent breathing.
Anyone can develop cold uriticaria, however, people are more at risk if they are young, have recently had an infection, have an underlying condition or have inherited certain genetic traits.
Cold urticaria often goes away on its own but can be treated via antihistamines and avoiding temperatures below 39F (4C).
Source: Mayo Clinic
‘Whenever the cold comes I go into hibernation mode’
Ms Pouw believes her condition, which started in 2013, has affected her role as a mother.
She said: ‘It affects me because I have three little ones who love playing outside in the snow and swimming, and I can’t go with them.
‘It’s really frustrating not being able to do normal things like having snowball fights or playing in the snow with my kids, they have to wait until my husband is home to do that. My husband has to do everything.’
She has even trained her six-year-old daughter how to use an EpiPen, which Ms Pouw carries at all times, in case she suffers an attack.
Ms Pouw added: ‘A cold-induced urticaria reaction could be fatal and it affects my health very severely so it is concerning, especially as a stay at home mum.
‘Now, whenever the cold comes I go into hibernation mode, I stay inside as much as I can and rarely leave the house unless I have to.
‘The low temperatures make it hard to do anything, the cold drains my energy on top of getting the hives.’
As well as causing hives, Ms Pouw claims her condition leaves her suffering from low energy
Ms Pouw relies on her husband to do ‘everything’ (pictured her swelled foot)
Ms Pouw always carries an EpiPen, which she has trained her six-year-old how to use
Despite the severity of Ms Pouw’s condition, many think the disorder is a joke
‘People think I’m joking’
Despite the severity of Ms Pouw’s condition, she claims many people do not take it seriously.
She said: ‘When I tell people about my condition they look at me like I’m crazy and think I’m joking, others have shown sympathy though.
‘As well as the cold weather I can have reactions if I splash cold water on my stomach, if I shower and don’t dry myself quick enough, if there is an air-conditioner on and many other things.
‘There are people all around the world with this condition and children too, it must be even more difficult for them trying to go to school in winter.’