Hysterical Goose Pimples

It’s now a month since my glorious, cold-water, clothing-optional qualifying swim at Austin’s Hippie Hollow.

I’ve swum many yards in this month, but all in a balmy 80-82 degree pool.

With the big race looming over me (6 weeks to go), I’ve decided to re-acclimatise myself to cold water. After all, who wants to swim 17000 yard workouts in training only to to be pulled from the water during the race because of silly-old hypothermia!?

So, for the second time this week, I ran myself a lovely cold bath and lay in it for as long as I could.



Of course, my camera doesn’t do these raised, red, livid looking wheals any justice at all. Also my tiles need regrouting.

After consulting Google, I learned that my cold-induced hives were called “cold urticaria”.

Hives caused by the cold.

Apparently I suffered an allergic reaction to cold water.


In the above picture the hives are very raised, red and look like a cross between a bad case of chicken pox and measles. This photo was taken only minutes after getting out of a 66 deg bath (immersion 25 min total-very minimal!). Very itchy. They covered both legs and were worse on my feet and ankles.

DermNetNZ.com says that my condition could be either acquired (most likely idiopathic), or familial.

At the moment I’m going with the acquired “idiopathic” cause. This is mainly because I’m a bit of an idio, and also because I disproved the familial. I convinced my skinny but daring 9 year old, Harriet, to get in the cold bath with me. You could have heard the screams a mile away, but when the big H takes up a challenge, she doesn’t give up. No hives on her!!

About.com:dermatology claims that in cases such as mine, swimming in cold water can cause “massive release of histamine resulting in low blood pressure, fainting, shock, and even death”.

DrGreene.com claims that cold urticaria is a really good excuse not to go swimming in cold water, and is made more bearable by extra hugs. However, the same Dr Greene also claims that cold urticaria can be a symptom of a number of unpronouncable diseases, including, but not limited to syphilis.

All the websites I consulted advised taking an antihistamine prior to taking the plunge. That would be ideal, but I’d have to campaign for the legalisation of the Li-lo so I could nap.


Actually, I’ve only had these hives a few times before, and usually only when I haven’t been in cold water for a while. I didn’t even get them while training in Texas (though I did go dark red), so I assumed they were a Lake Michigan “thing”. Of course, our town water comes from the lake, so that might still be true.