The rush of cold air that comes after stepping out of a hot shower isn’t a pleasant feeling for most, but it was nearly enough to kill a Colorado man, according to a recent study.
After collapsing in the bathroom, the 34-year-old man was rushed to the emergency room, struggling to breathe. His body was caught in the throes of anaphylaxis, a violent allergic reaction that was triggered, in this case, by cold air.
He was treated, stabilized and transferred to the ICU for monitoring, according to the study published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine.
The man’s family told researchers he had a history of apparent allergic reactions to the cold, and would sometimes break out into hives — but he had never experienced anything life-threatening before, Science Alert reported. According to the man’s family, his allergies began after moving from tropical Micronesia to Colorado, a significantly colder environment.
Doctors diagnosed him with Cold urticaria, a condition characterized by allergic reactions to cold air, objects and substances.
“Cold urticaria symptoms begin soon after the skin is exposed to a sudden drop in air temperature or to cold water,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Damp and windy conditions may make a flare of symptoms more likely.”
Upon discharge, he was prescribed an epinephrine injector, or EpiPen, and doctors advised him to steer clear of situations where his whole body could be exposed to the cold, Science Alert reported.
“Cold anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening phenomenon,” researchers said, adding “it is occasionally described in the emergency medicine literature.”
How often the condition occurs isn’t known, researchers say, but the incidence rate in central Europe is estimated around 0.05%.
Mild reactions include red welts on exposed skin, and swelling of limbs and extremities that come into contact with a cold object, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Swelling of the throat and tongue may also occur, cutting off air flow and making it difficult to breath.
Finally, there’s anaphylaxis, which the Colorado man experienced. It “can cause fainting, a racing heart, swelling of limbs or torso, and shock,” the Mayo Clinic says.