So here in Iowa, we recently experienced a blizzard of seemingly epic proportions. Do you have any friends from Iowa on your facebook friends list? If so, check their status updates. I guarantee 90% of them have written a status update that will somehow be associated with the shitty weather we have had lately. This recent blizzard is what prompted me to write this entry.
I am allergic to cold temperatures. No seriously, I really am. Roughly 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition called cold urticaria. The word “urticaria” is basically fancy schmancy for “hives.”
Every time I tell someone that I am allergic to cold, their initial response is to laugh at me because they are unaware that the condition even exists. After I inform someone that I am allergic to cold, they usually just stand their with a confused expression on their face and half-assedly laugh at me as if I am telling them some sort of lame joke. I always have to clarify to them that I am not joking, that I seriously am allergic to cold. They usually continue standing, maintaining a facial expression of disbelief. This could be because of the timing of when I inform them of my cold allergy. For example, if it is cold outside and someone wants me to help them work on something outside, I immediately pull my “I’m allergic to cold so I can’t help you with that” line. Which is true. It is extremely dangerous for me to be exposed to cold temperatures, especially if I am doing something physically strenuous and taking deep breaths of cold air.
It all started when I was 20 years old. I went to Loras College in Dubuque, IA where the winters were insanely cold. When I lived in the dorms my first two years of college, I walked to my classes. This walk included a 150 yard stretch over a bluff which overlooked the soccer field. The wind would scream past the soccer field and blast anyone who was walking along the bluff to get to class. I would enter my classrooms or my dorm room and notice that my face had more of a reddish tint than everyone else. Not to mention, I would get itchy, bug bite looking things on any other part of my body where my skin was exposed such as my forearms.
Over time my symptoms became worse. If I am outside in cold temperatures for 5-10 minutes, my face looks like a 75 year old version of Frankenstein’s monster. If any any other part of my body is exposed to cold, I break out in hives. Each individual hive appears to be on steroids compared to the mosquito bite looking bumps I used to get. My face ends up looking like someone vigorously assaulted it with nunchuks and my arms look like I was attacked by a few dozen pissed off bumble bees. Along with the facial swelling and hives, red creases have also begun to form on my arms and lower abdomen.
I can no longer swim in water that has a colder than average temperature. If I do this, it becomes a potentially fatal situation. When I was 23 years old, I went to a swimming pool party that one of my friends was hosting. I jumped in the pool shortly after arriving. I waded in the pool for 5 minutes when I started noticing the familiar red bumps beginning to formulate all over my body. I thought to myself, “oh great, these stupid ass cold bumps are going to distract all the ladies’ attention from my big muscles (I was single and regularly lifting weights at the time.)” Shortly after this thought cross my mind, I started feeling dizzy and light-headed. It wasn’t nausea. It felt like a combination of being physically worn out to the point of being dizzy combined with the intitial waves of a panic attack. I jumped out of the pool, sat down in a chair and began silently panting to myself. I was trying to ease my symptoms in obscure fashion. I didn’t want anyone to notice me breathing hard after simply wading in a pool for 5 minutes. However, the symptoms continued to accelerate. I decided to stand up and walk around because I felt as if I wasn’t getting enough circulation in my body. I took a couple steps and was feeling dizzy to the point where the world appeared to spinning around me. I uttered the words, “there is something wrong with me, I don’t feel right.” I remember a couple people chuckling at first because they assumed I was joking because I was always acting like a jackass. Their tone changed when my legs became wobbly and I passed out and fell on the ground which was made of concrete. I woke up flat on my back with my friend frantically asking me, “Swaff?!? Are you ok?!?! Can you hear me Swaff?!?!” I began slowly regaining my consciousness and composure. My knees and elbows were skinned from landing on the concrete and I had a small bump on my head from hitting a plastic lawn chair during the fall. I was humiliated and asked one of my friends to give me a ride home. The tone of the social gathering made a transition from having fun and drinking beer at the swimming pool to worrying about my safety and health.
Following this incident, I decided to set up an appointment with the doctor in an attempt to find out what the hell was wrong with me. For all I knew, I was suffering from some undiscovered terminal disease.I described my symptoms to the doctor and he asked for a nurse to fetch him an ice cube. When the nurse retrieved the ice cube for him, he placed it on my arm and held it there for 5 minutes. After he removed the ice cube, the skin on my arm swelled up in the shape of the cube. The doctor then said, “well, you passed the ice cube test.” “Passed? So is that good?” I asked. He replied with, “not necessarily. You have cold urticaria, which essentially means you are allergic to cold. Your skin does not produce the antihistamines needed for your body to be resilient to cold temperatures. This is very rare, but does occur to some people usually beginning when the individual is around 20 years old. Some people grow out of the condition in their 30’s and others continue to suffer the symptoms for the rest of their lives. Swimming in cool water can force the hives to develop all over your body and is the leading cause of death with people who have the condition.” “So this condition can be fatal?!,” I asked. “If you are not careful,” the doctor said. I then asked him, “so what now? How do I prevent these symptoms from occurring in the future?” His advice was, “well, don’t swim in water with cool temperatures and stay out of the cold if possible.” I thought to myself, “oh thanks for the wonderful advice Dr. Fucking Obvious. Staying out of the cold should be no problem at all since, ya know, I live in Iowa where the weather is blisteringly cold for half of the year…douche-nugget.”
In order to prove to everyone that I am not a blow-hard and AM allergic to cold, I figured I would need photographic evidence for proof. Below is a regular picture of me followed by a picture of me taken after standing outside in the freezing cold for a minute. You will be amazed at the difference. This actually pretty risky for me to do. It shows how dedicated I am at exploiting myself as a dumbass for your amusement.