I'm allergic to the cold.

Oftentimes when I tell people this, they jokingly respond, "Oh, yeah? I think I'm allergic to it, too" or instead just simply say, "Oh, I don't like the cold either!" It's hard to blame them. You're probably thinking right now, "How is that even possible?" Well, allow me to explain: I have a rare skin condition called cold urticaria

When my skin is exposed to cold temperatures, red, itchy and sometimes painful hives appear after a few minutes. Usually my fingers swell up like sausages first. Then I break out with hives on my legs or arms. And sometimes it doesn't even matter if I'm wearing long pants or a sweatshirt—I can still feel them form underneath if I'm not wearing enough layers.

Beware: there's a somewhat gross photo of my leg covered in these hives below.

Li Stalder

It's as awful as it looks. I've had the condition since I was a little kid (unknown cause). I've always hoped I would grow out of it—it's supposedly possible—but it still hasn't happened yet.

Luckily I have lived in either southern California or Florida for my entire life, so I don't have to endure super cold winters (but I have seen snow before and realized I'm not missing out on much). And I'm not planning to move anywhere up north. Unfortunately, it still manages to affect me in everyday life. 

Air conditioning is the enemy.

I usually joke that I don't go to the gym because I'm allergic to it. In a way, that's kinda sorta true, right? Gyms are overly air-conditioned, and it's for a good reason, too. However, it's a real struggle for me. I don't particularly like wearing sweats (leggings are usually too thin) and getting overheated while exercising, but my other option isn't great either.

I also hate walking down the frozen food aisles at the supermarket. Usually I have to dress warm for going to the movies. And then there's the infamous ongoing thermostat war at the office that holds true where I work. 

Swimming & eating ice cream can potentially be dangerous. 

Florida has great springs to swim in as a fun summer activity. But nope, not for me. I usually only last a few minutes in before I have to get back out because of the cold water. FOMO is real. 

I still eat ice cream and milkshakes (even my allergy can't stop me from doing that). Though I have noticed sometimes my throat restricts and tightens a little after I eat cold things. While I'm not entirely sure if it's directly related to my own cold urticaria reaction, it's certainly a possibility

So, how do I cope with it? 

Trust me—it's hard to deal with, but I have no other choice. For really bad reactions that I get every so often, I can help myself to some Benadryl or another antihistamine, either as a pill and/or as a cream. But other than that, I simply have to layer up. 

I can still clearly remember my first day at UF. It was an abnormally cold day in Gainesville, like 30-something degrees Fahrenheit (since I started in the spring semester). I wore a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt and a large coat on top and tights, thick leggings, jeans and sweatpants on bottom. I kid you not. While I was prepared for my long trek across campus, I felt ridiculous. 

But on the plus side, I use this as one of my fun facts when I meet people. It's a good way to break the ice.