BY EMMA HUERTA
Allergies are a fairly common occurrence. From peanut to pollen allergies, millions of people are affected. However, some other, rarer sensitivities have gone relatively unheard of.
This is the case with cold urticaria, an allergy characterized by an increased sensitivity to the cold, including cold water and weather. Symptoms include hives, redness, tightening of the throat and, in the most severe scenarios, anaphylactic shock which could potentially be fatal.
Sophomore Kayla Kissel is, according to Mayo Clinic, one of the 0.05 percent of people affected by the condition.
“My family found out about the condition when we went to the beach and I went in the cold water,” Kissel said. “I came out of the water covered in hives and with odd breathing
The unfamiliar nature of cold urticaria makes it a bit difficult for people to genuinely acknowledge Kissel’s diagnosis, leaving her vulnerable to misconceptions and ignorance.
“My family found out about the condition when we went to the beach and I went in the cold water. I came out of the water covered in hives and with odd breathing
patterns,like my throat was closing.”
“To be honest, it’s a little embarrassing to have this disease or allergy because it’s so … bizarre that people often think it’s fake when it’s really not,” Kissel said. “They tend to argue with me that it’s just a way the skin reacts to cold. It’s hard to really show people what I’m talking about because it’s too painful to show and prove myself.”
Although Florida’s warm and tropical climate is relatively favorable for such an allergy, Kissel’s hypersensitivity still affects her to a certain degree, even in indoor air-conditioned environments.
“As of now it doesn’t affect me as much because I live in Florida, but I usually have to wear long sleeves to school,” Kissel said. “Sometimes classrooms, even set at like 68 [degrees], cause me to get hives.”
Despite the drastic effects of the condition, past and present experiences with it have helped Kissel learn significant life lessons, relating both to her allergy and to others’ possible situations as well.
“Kayla has had this condition for a while now, and living in Florida has been easier on her, but it still does affect her breathing and skin, so we still try to be careful,” Kissel’s mother Lauren Kissel said. “The condition has made her a more cautious person, and more aware of other people’s conditions, and it possibly taught her not to judge people for anything they may have affecting them.”
Despite her condition, Kayla does not allow herself to succumb to the illness. She participates in many extracurricular activities, including competitive dance, Cowboy Television (CTV) and Thespians. Although her condition may bother her at times, she has grown to overcome it in order to pursue these interests to her fullest ability.
“She never lets [the condition] get in the way of her day-to-day life.”
“Sometimes Kayla is in pain or irritated but she fights through it every day to do the things she loves,” Kissel’s friend sophomore Rachel Goldberg said. “She never lets [the condition] get in the way of her day-to-day life.”
Another aspiration of Kissel’s is to someday move out of Florida if her condition fades away over time. Although there is a high chance that she might maintain the allergy, there is also a possibility that it will go away.
“Due to this condition, I’m currently living in Florida, although I do have hopes of moving away to another state like New York— which is much colder— when I’m older,” Kissel said. “The condition can go away in 8 to 10 years in a little under half of the cases, so I’m hoping that it goes away for me.”
Kissel’s positive attitude toward something many would label a burden has also inspired those around her, as her radiant personality shows others that they too can overcome whatever obstacles they face.
“Kayla inspires me like crazy,” Goldberg said. “She works so hard and I’ve never once heard her complain about anything that has to do with her condition. She is so strong and may be in pain daily depending on the weather, but she perseveres and still does amazing things. I really admire her.”
Photo courtesy of Kayla Kissel