Why Do I Get Hives in the Cold?

I am having the strangest problem. I get hives when it’s cold out! I’ve been getting hives for as long as I can remember but lately, the hives are getting worse. It is hard to describe how it feels other than a painful itching all over my body. The only way I can describe it is like a rick-rack (google Rick-Rack) pattern that makes it hard for me to wear a lot of clothing because I start to itch.

It does not seem to matter if my skin comes in direct contact with the cold air or if it is through the fabric. If there is any little bit of cold air surrounding me, I start to itch. At first, I thought maybe it was an allergic reaction to the cold but then realized that extreme hot weather doesn’t bother me at all. So, why do I get hives in the cold?

What Causes Hives?

When you get hives, your body is reacting to something that it thinks is harmful but it’s not. It’s protecting itself from something that isn’t a threat at all. Hives are caused by histamine, which is released by certain cells in your body called mast cells. Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate and become leaky, causing fluid and proteins to leak out into the surrounding tissues (like your skin).

How Do I Know If I Have Hives?

The most common symptom of hives is itching. But sometimes other symptoms can include redness and swelling in the affected area; blisters or welts; flushing or redness of the face or neck; difficulty breathing due to swelling around the throat; fever; nausea and vomiting; diarrhea; and abdominal pain (from intestinal cramping).


Hives are caused by an allergic reaction that happens when your immune system reacts to a trigger. The trigger can be something you eat or drink, touch or inhale. Hives are also caused by emotional stress, exercise, and heat.

Symptoms of hives include:

  • Swelling in one area
  • Redness of the skin
  • Itching
  • Rashes with raised borders around them

Why Do I Get Hives in the Cold?

When your body is exposed to something it considers harmful (an allergen), histamines are released from your mast cells to fight off the threat. The release of histamines causes swelling and itchiness in the affected area, which is why hives appear as red welts on the skin after exposure to an allergen.

Sometimes hives are caused by an allergic reaction to something you touch or eat. But when the cause is unknown, it’s called idiopathic urticaria (IH) meaning “irritated hives caused by an unknown cause.”

There are different types of IH, including physical urticaria (PU) and cold urticaria (CU). PU causes hives after exposure to heat or cold. PU can also be triggered by pressure, vibration, or sunlight but not always. The same goes for CU: It may be triggered only by cold temperatures or ice-cold liquids.

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