Cold Induced Orticaria

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It’s cold here in L.A. at night and in the morning. Such a drastic difference between night and day. I know that none of my East Coast friends believe me. But there was frost on the ground this morning. And we don’t have humidity in the air so it’s that biting, sometimes windy, cold, dry, desert air.

Also none of the apartments in L.A. are well insulated. It feels like there is a window open in my apartment right now. The heating is not working yet either. My landlord is supposed to have the handyman come. He didn’t come today, that’s why I’m sitting here with wool socks on, fleece slippers, sweatpants, 4 shirts, including 2 fleece ones, fingerless gloves, a fake pashmina scarf and a thick winter hat. I sleep with a wool cap on and this many layers even under a down comforter and blanket.

I took a scalding hot shower today, so hot that my skin looked like I had been beaten and I still did not feel warm. Getting out of the shower was hell. My teeth chatter a few times a night and I’m dehydrated from drinking so much coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

People are always surprised to learn that I lived in Boston and New York City for the first 27 years of my life. “Oh, you’re used to this!” No. I’m not. “Oh, you should be tolerant of way worse!” Barely. Just because I’m from Boston doesn’t mean that I’ve ever tolerated cold weather, knuckleheads from Southie who rage in the bleachers seats at Fenway Park, or polluted rivers.

I am allergic to cold weather. That is not a joke or a little cutesy thing to say. The allergy is called, cold induced orticaria. That means that when I get cold, and it doesn’t even have to be that cold, it’s just when I get cold, I break out in huge, itchy hives. All over. Right now I have them on my hands and ankles. It took a long time to figure out what this was. It first hit me at a birthday party for a friend who had a pool when I was 8. The sun was setting and kids kept swimming. I got out and rushed for my towel, shivering and chattering and getting so full of hives, I started to black out. That’s what happens when the getting too cold gets bad, you black out and faint.

So, hence my intolernace and my fleeing to L.A. which to me seems like a frozen tundra. Maybe I should try Hawaii, or summertime in Iraq. Heat does not bother me. I can carry hot coffee without a sleeve. I often do it for my boyfriend. It’s as if I have no feeling in my skin, except for cold.

One other time I got the “orticaria” was after school. It was so cold out that I had to call my mom for a ride home. I was in 6th grade. She was on the phone and our line was busy. I ran out of dimes. I asked the principal if I could use her phone. She actually said, “NO!” And pointed to a sign that said, “Using the phone costs a dime.” I don’t know what insane rule this was. But she would not let me use the phone. So my mom eventually got off her call and waited for me. I didn’t show up. I was at the principal. Finally my mom called the school an hour later and that’s when she came to get me. We BOTH told off the principal and then began the notes from the doctor which allowed me to skip outdoor recess, outdoor gym, to always be allowed to use the phone in case of an emergency and to use the bus even though I lived too close to school.

I have all my medical records and the notes right here on my desk.

“Dear Ms. Toran,

Jennifer Kirkman has cold induced orticaria and should be allowed a bus pass for the cold weather,

Dr. Jane Brown.”

“To Physical Education Department,

Jennifer should be allowed to come inside when out in cold weather if her rash begins to form and feels faint. She should be allowed to rest as needed.

Dr. Jane Brown.”

(Seriously though, teachers and principals were such bad-asses back then. The bus driver AND my gym teacher made fun of me and challenged me to produce a rash for their ability to believe me.)

And now I’m still intolerant of the cold and a little more intolerant of authority.

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