A woman who is "allergic to cold" needs to wear a face mask outdoors in case a drop in temperature sparks a deadly reaction.
Max Fisher, 23, says she has been diagnosed cold-induced urticaria which can kill sufferers in extreme cases.
Those who suffer an allergic reaction will go into anaphylactic shock – much like if they were to suffer a bee sting or eat peanuts.
And it isn’t just winter temperatures that could set Max off.
From inhaling cold air or sipping a cool drink she comes out in red, itchy hives and her throat closes up.
The pharmacology graduate is raising awareness about the condition ahead of the expected cold snap.
Max, of Sherwood, Nottingham, said: “I’m allergic to the cold so I’m basically allergic to winter.
“I was diagnosed with a conditional called urticaria in 2009.
“I wear a face mask outdoors to prevent a reaction.
“The symptoms are mostly an urticarial rash, big swollen, hot and very itchy.
“If I breathe in cold air, I get wheezy, so when I put the mask on it’s coming through slightly warmed material.
“That mixes with the warm air that I have just breathed out – so it takes the edge of any cold that is out there.
“I was quite an outdoorsy person before I was diagnosed with the condition.
“I used to go to car shows with my dad all the time.
“I would just do typical kid stuff like running around and climbing trees.
“I would love it if more people were aware of urticaria.
“People wear masks for all sorts of reasons.
“When I wear the mask people stare and I get abuse in the street sometimes.
“Sometimes I don’t want to deal with that just to go to the shops and get a bag of crisps from the shop.
“I live with chronic pain and sometimes I use a walking stick or a wheelchair.
“Trying to find work is just such a struggle.
“It’s so frustrating – I’ve worked really hard – I have a Master’s degree in pharmacology.
“I’ve done all of this hard-work and put myself out there and employers are just ‘ah wheelchair’.
“I was really nervous at first, to be like I can get out of the wheelchair, I can walk a little bit.
“So I don’t have to be in a box of can’t or can walk.
“Disabled people exist and some of us wear masks, some of us use wheelchairs, some of us use walking sticks.
“I definitely want people with disabilities to just be accepted.”
Cold-induced urticaria is an auto-immune disease, which causes her to break out in hives which burn and itch, and can spread across her entire body, varying in size.
But it’s not as simple as moving to a warm country, as in the summer ice in her drink causes her fingers to swell, opening a fridge or freezer, jumping into a pool or a breeze can chill her, causing a reaction.
Max first experienced a breakout when she was 14, when she developed breathing difficulties after sitting on wet grass in the summer.
But her symptoms were mistaken for a pollen allergy for the several weeks, and she claims even now some medical professionals don’t understand her condition.
She said: “It was a summer’s day and I just sat down on the wet grass and suddenly started wheezing and struggling to breathe.
“I got an itchy red rash all over my arms and I had no idea what was going on.
“Initially doctors thought it was a pollen allergy but further tests revealed it was urticaria.
“Apparently the wet grass on my skin cooled it so much that it triggered the reaction.
“It’s scary when it happens because I don’t know if my throat will close up completely but now I take antihistamines every day just in case I suffer another reaction.
“The summer is just as bad as the winter and I’ve come out in hives after walking into an air-conditioned room before.
“As long as I’m of a constant, medium temperature with no sudden drops in the temperature I’m ok but it is a daily battle.”
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