Man almost dies from allergic reaction after stepping out of shower into cold bathroom

  • A terrifying and rare allergic reaction to cold air almost caused a man's death
  • This happened after he stepped into a cold bathroom, resulting in him being rushed to the ER
  • This was reported in a medical journal, and doctors stressed the importance of emergency physicians being aware of the condition

Most people feel great after a shower, but recently an American from Colorado almost died after taking a shower. 

The 34-year-old man had developed a life-threatening allergic reaction to cold temperatures, and collapsed after stepping out of a hot shower into a cold bathroom.

According to a case report published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, his family found him on the floor, where he was struggling to breathe and his skin covered in hives.

He was experiencing cold-induced anaphylaxis, a severe form of hypersensitive reaction to cold temperatures, the doctors wrote.

After being hospitalised and treated with an antihistamine and steroids, his condition improved. 

Allergic to cold weather

Doctors explained in their report that according to the man’s family he had a history of being "allergic to the cold weather”. Although he had previously experienced hives as a reaction to the cold, there had been no anaphylactic reaction.

The reaction reportedly started after he moved from Micronesia, Oceania – which has a tropical climate – to Colorado, where the climate is colder.

After treating him with epinephrine (a medication used to treat anaphylaxis) and oxygen, the paramedics rushed him to the emergency room. 

Diagnosis: cold urticaria

Doctors eventually diagnosed the patient with cold urticaria, an allergic skin reaction after exposure to cold temperatures (cold air or cold water).

This was after they performed an ice cube test, where an ice cube is placed against the skin of the forearm for up to five minutes. Doctors then observe the area. If a raised, red bump on the skin develops in the area, the patient is diagnosed with cold urticaria.

The Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) explains that symptoms usually begin in early adulthood, with the most common symptom being a red, itchy rash that appears on the skin.

GARD adds that the reaction usually occurs within five to 10 minutes after exposure and can last for one to two hours.

In more serious cases, such as the case in question, people can develop anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. 

Cause of cold urticaria

Cold urticaria does not have a high prevalence, and its exact cause is unknown, although viral infections, insect bites, and certain cancers have been associated with the condition. GARD indicates that it can be inherited, meaning that some people have a genetic predisposition.

The patient was counselled to avoid exposure to cold water or situations where his whole body is exposed to the cold.

According to the report, he was also prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis in emergency situations.

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Image: Getty/Jose A. Bernat Bacete

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