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Three images of Arianna Kent, suffering an allergic reaction in two of themCaters

This woman has a rare allergy to cold winter weather

She can't even drink iced water or swim in a cold pool

Ashitha Nagesh

It gets dark way too early, our bank accounts are about to take a battering from all the festive shopping we have to do, and some really unlucky people can’t even eat Christmas dinners.

Yep - in many ways, winter sucks.

But the season is particularly bad for Arianna Kent, a 21-year-old from Alberta in Canada, who is allergic to the cold.

Whenever she encounters the cold - including wind, rain and snow, cold water in swimming pools, or even ice in her drink - Arianna breaks out in unbearable hives.

Sometimes, if it’s cold enough, she goes into anaphylactic shock - a potentially fatal type of allergic reaction that stops her from being able to breathe.

Which is unfortunate, because the temperature in Alberta can drop as low as -40C.

People often don’t believe me or know it’s a real allergy. They say, ‘Yes Arianna, we know you’re always cold but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to it.’

“I have to stay layered up and prepare for temperature changes,” Arianna explains. “If it does change drastically, I have to slowly heat myself up or when I cool down again I’ll have a reaction.”

On cold days, she adds, she has no choice but to stay indoors.

Arianna’s condition is known as cold-induced urticaria, which causes hives that can quickly spread all across her body.

And it’s quite severe. Arianna used to be hospitalised at least three times a month, and was once kept in for two days straight. Now, even after learning how to manage her allergy, she still ends up in hospital about once a month. She also has to carry an EpiPen around, just in case.

Leaving Canada for warmer climes wouldn’t even help much, she says, because she even reacts to opening fridges and indoor air conditioning.

“I can feel it in my throat if I’m drinking something cold,” she adds. “It feels tight and tense. It’s the same if I eat ice cream.”

Arianna first reacted to the cold when she was 14. She was shovelling snow outside her home when, suddenly, she couldn’t breathe.

Many people develop allergies as young children, and sometimes outgrow them before they become adults. However, it is also possible to develop an allergy to something as a teenager or adult.

For two years she was misdiagnosed with a food allergy, until, when she was 16, doctors finally realised that the cold was the culprit. But even now, she says, people think she’s making it up.

Arianna KentCaters
Arianna as normal, on the left, and having a reaction on the right

Arianna adds: “People often don’t believe me or know it’s a real allergy. They say, ‘Yes Arianna, we know you’re always cold but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to it’.”

Bosses haven’t been much better - with one former employer at a restaurant telling her off for wearing a cardigan because it looked “unprofessional”. But when she was sent to the fridge and suffered a bad reaction, her employers finally got it.

“It’s terrifying knowing that if I’m in an area without access to medical help and my throat closes up I could be at serious risk.”

Dr Walayat Hussain, a consultant from the British Association of Dermatologists, tells BBC Three that coming out in hives is really common.

In the UK, he says, “it’s thought that around one in five people will experience urticaria (hives) at some point”, triggered by various different things.

Getting this reaction because of the cold, however, is rare - although he agrees that it can be quite severe for those who suffer from it.

“Cold urticaria is a type of urticaria whereby the cold weather sets off the histamines [a defence mechanism your body employs to try and fight off allergens] in your body and causes rashes and raised welts on the skin,” Dr Hussain says.

“This can cause your lips and throat to swell, too, which can make it difficult to breathe.”

Basically, it makes Christmas in the northern hemisphere pretty damn miserable.