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Cold Allergy: What it is, Diagnosis, and Treatment

PORTADAS WEB_alergia al frio
Humberto Rondón Cepeda
Allergology consultations, Allergological tests
22 Feb 2024
2 Min
Health and advice

Is there such a thing as cold allergy? With the drop in temperatures, many people experience what is commonly known as “cold allergy,” a skin reaction to the cold that appears shortly after exposure. Dr. Rondón Cepeda, an allergy specialist at Paracelso Sagasta, explains why it occurs, how it is diagnosed, and the keys to its proper treatment.

What is cold allergy?

According to Allergology specialists, the medical term for cold allergy is called cold urticaria, as the symptoms of this condition are due to immunological mechanisms. In other words, it triggers the release of chemicals in the body that cause the skin to inflame and hives to form. In some cases, cold urticaria can also manifest after consuming cold foods or beverages, leading to inflammation of the larynx or trachea.

What causes cold urticaria?

The cause of cold urticaria is not entirely known. This disorder seems to affect young adults more, particularly those with mast cells that are “sensitive” to the cold. Mast cells are cells located in the skin and other body tissues that activate in response to low temperatures, releasing histamine, a pro-inflammatory chemical responsible for triggering the characteristic symptoms of the allergy.

What are the symptoms of cold urticaria?

The severity and symptoms vary from person to person, but commonly manifest as itching, often accompanied by changes in skin color (erythema), ultimately resulting in a lesion similar to a hive. Depending on the area, the hive may spread, creating an area of edema. Body areas most frequently affected are those exposed to cold air, such as the face, hands, and earlobes.

In severe cases, cold urticaria can cause generalized reactions (anaphylaxis) with low blood pressure (hypotension), difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting – potentially life-threatening reactions. These severe reactions are very rare, especially in climates like ours, where weather conditions do not favor exposure to extremely cold environments.

How is cold urticaria diagnosed?

The primary diagnostic test is cold stimulation, involving placing an ice cube on the patient’s forearm for around five minutes. The area is then studied at intervals of one, three, five, and ten minutes to detect the appearance of hives or redness. Currently, there are more advanced techniques such as Temp-Test®, which also allows determining the critical threshold temperature at which the patient begins to react.

How is cold urticaria treated?

The use of antihistamines helps prevent and control the symptoms of cold urticaria. Antihistamines reduce the skin reaction in patients with this condition when exposed to the cold. Additionally, keeping the skin well-hydrated helps avoid itching caused by the common dryness on cold days.


Controlling your allergies improves your quality of life. At Paracelso Sagasta’s Allergology Unit, we address all types of allergic diseases from a comprehensive perspective, analyzing the immunological and environmental factors involved in their development. A multidisciplinary team of specialists, including internists, allergists, and dermatologists, work together to provide you with an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment aimed at relieving your symptoms and improving the prognosis of your allergy. Make an appointment today.


Cold Allergy