Going from Very Cold to Warm, My Butt's and Ankles' Skin Gets Nastily Itchy
February 15, 2005 4:15 PM   Subscribe

If I go outside in very cold temperatures, then enter a warm environment, the skin on my buttocks and ankles often becomes intolerably itchy. My sister has a similar problem with the skin on her thighs. What might this be?

The skin isn't particularly dry, nor do I have any skin conditions that I know of. It's even worse if my pants become a little damp, but that's not necessary. My sister says her skin has been so itchy that it has brought tears to her eyes. Could this be a cold allergy? Is there something that can be done about it?

I should add that it only really happens if I've been walking in the cold for a while...say, at least 10-20 minutes.
posted by stray to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cold Urticaria -- I have this too (though it's usually only brought on by cold water, including my own sweat). My friends use this as one of many indicators I'm not really human.
posted by ewagoner at 4:26 PM on February 15, 2005

When I'd experience drastic temperature shifts like that, either from going back inside after being out in the cold for too long or from heavy exercise (or a too-hot shower or bath), I'd get extremely itchy -- and sometimes even break out in a rash.

I actually went to a doctor to ask if it was possible to be allergic to one's own sweat and was promptly laughed at. (He's a family friend and long-time doctor, so it wasn't a mean laugh.) He said it was more likely the result of Cholinergic Urticaria. (More on urticaria in general here)

It sounds unlikely that this is specifically what you're dealing with, but it's possible it's related in some manner; maybe this will at least give you a starting point.
posted by ibidem at 4:29 PM on February 15, 2005

Yeah, I get the urticaria hives too, only when I exercise in the cold. I don't know what you can do about it... I just endure.
posted by Specklet at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2005

I get this too when excercising in the cold; I always thought it was normal and happened to everyone. Thanks!
posted by rhapsodie at 4:43 PM on February 15, 2005

If this is a problem for you, you may want to keep some benadryl in your coat pocket: Severe reactions can be seen with exposure to cold water. Swimming in cold water is the most common cause of a severe reaction. This can cause a massive release of histamine resulting in low blood pressure, fainting, shock, and even death.

This happened to me in the middle of summer at a waterpark in Albuquerque. I was wet, in line for a waterslide, way up high, in a stiff wind. The cooling reaction was enough to trigger a massive release of histamines that just about did me in. Just like those allergic to bee stings, I learned to always have quick access to antihistamines.
posted by ewagoner at 5:36 PM on February 15, 2005

My scalp itches when I walk into a hot office. I guess I could have the same thing.

But I already know I have an over-active immune system. I'd rather just scratch for a bit than take antihistamines all the time. Anyway, one of the things I react badly to is diesel fumes and I'm not sure I disagree with my immune system on that call.
posted by krisjohn at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2005

Stray, do you stay itchy for very long? If not, I'd say this is normal. When your skin gets cold, your body cuts down on the blood flow near the surface. When the blood comes back after warming up, you get a little itchy, swollen and red. (The worst thing you can do when coming inside is to hop in the bath or run hot water over your hands, because then you'll itch and swell like crazy.) You might just need a pair of long johns. (IANADBIAFW: I am not a doctor, but I am from Winnipeg.)
posted by teg at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2005

Could just be dry skin--not as exciting as cold urticaria, but perhaps more easily treated. Try globbing on some good thick lotion every morning.
posted by scratch at 6:59 AM on February 16, 2005

I have the same problem, stray. Gold Bond has an anti-itching lotion that works great.
posted by deborah at 9:56 AM on February 16, 2005

I get it too, mostly on my back just above and below the waist, and on my thighs. It's damn annoying. I find that when I have sessions with a massage therapist it keeps the itchiness at bay for at least a week, sometimes more. (If only I could afford to go more frequently!)

(Being dilligent about keeping my skin moisturized seems to help, or moreover, dry skin seems to exacerbate the problem, but you said that you don't have particularly dry skin. )

I also have Raynaud's, though, so I'm pretty resigned to being miserable in cold weather (and overactive airconditioning.)
posted by desuetude at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2005

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