Stepping out of a hot shower into a cold bathroom almost killed a Colorado man, who had developed a serious allergic reaction to cold temperatures.
The 34-year-old old man collapsed after getting out of the shower, and his family found him on the floor, according to a report of the case published Oct. 27 in The Journal of Emergency Medicine. The man was struggling to breathe and his skin was covered in hives. He was experiencing a life-threatening, whole-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
When paramedics arrived, his family told them that the man had a history of being “allergic to the cold weather,” according to the report. He had previously experienced hives as a reaction to the cold, but not anaphylaxis. These episodes started after he moved from Micronesia, which has a tropical climate, to Colorado, which sees colder temperatures, the report said.
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Paramedics treated the man with epinephrine and oxygen, and rushed him to the emergency room. When he got to the hospital, he was sweating profusely and had hives all over his body.
Doctors diagnosed him with cold urticaria, an allergic reaction of the skin after exposure to cold temperatures, including cold air or cold water, according to the Mayo Clinic. People can also develop symptoms after consuming cold food or drinks, Live Science previously reported.
The most common symptom is a red, itchy rash (hives) after exposure to the cold; but in more serious cases, people can develop anaphylaxis, which can cause their blood pressure to plummet and airways to narrow, making breathing difficult. These more severe reactions typically occur with full-body skin exposure to the cold, such as when people swim in cold water, the Mayo Clinic says. In the man’s case, his entire body was exposed to cold air after stepping out of his shower.
Doctor’s confirmed the man’s diagnosis using an “ice cube test,” which involves placing an ice cube on the skin for about 5 minutes. If the patient develops a raised, red bump on the skin where the ice cube was, they are diagnosed with cold urticaria.
Exactly how common the condition is overall is not known — one study in Europe found a prevalence of 0.05%, according to the National Institutes of Health. Anaphylactic reactions are less common than hive-like reactions.
In most cases, the cause of the condition is not known, but sometimes it can be inherited, meaning people have a genetic predisposition. In other people, cold urticaria is triggered by something that affects the immune system, such as a viral infection or certain cancers.
The allergic reaction happens because exposure to the cold causes the immune system to release chemicals called histamines, which trigger an inflammatory response, Live Science previously reported.
At the hospital, the man was treated with antihistamine and steroids, and his condition improved. Before he left the hospital, he was counseled to avoid exposure to cold water
Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world, data shows.
Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality.
Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
The discovery is reported in the State of Global Air 2020 report, which examined data on deaths around the world alongside a growing body of research that links air pollution with health problems.
Medical experts have warned for years of the impacts of dirty air on older people and on those with health conditions, but are only beginning to understand the deadly toll on babies in the womb.
Katherine Walker, principal scientist at the Health Effects Institute, which published the report, said: “We don’t totally understand what the mechanisms are at this stage, but there is something going on that is causing reductions in baby growth and ultimately birth weight. There is an epidemiological link, shown across multiple countries in multiple studies.”
Babies born with a low birth weight are more susceptible to childhood infections and pneumonia. The lungs of pre-term babies can also not be fully developed.
“They are born into a high pollution environment, and are more susceptible than children who went to term,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in the US.
Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles), who was not involved with the study, said the indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London.
“This is not the air pollution we see in modern cities [in the rich world] but that which we had 150 years ago in London and other places, where there were coal fires indoors. Indoor air pollution has not been at the forefront for policymakers, but it should be,” Ritz said.
She pointed out that the harm to children went beyond the deaths; reducing air pollution would also lessen harm to survivors. “There is also damage to the brain and other organs from this pollution, so just surviving is not enough – we need to reduce air pollution because of the impact on all these organs too,” she said.
Some of these effects are likely to have existed, unnoticed, for centuries, as people have long cooked upon fires in enclosed spaces, an activity that causes particulate matter to be breathed in, particularly by women and children, who spend more time in
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