Scots mum with life-threatening allergy to cold facing ‘burden’ of energy crisis

An Ayrshire mum who suffers an extreme allergic reaction when exposed to the cold says energy price hikes are ‘an additional burden’ she now had to contend with.

Jackie Thompson suffers from Severe Idiopathic Cold Urticaria, meaning contact with anything below body temperature could be potentially fatal.

She was first diagnosed with the disease in 2018 – which is common in acute form but considered rare in chronic form – after experiencing symptoms such as skin hives in cold weather and when drinking cold liquids.

In severe cases, the condition can cause anaphylaxis – an extreme allergic reaction that causes the mouth and tongue to swell.

Jackie, an Audiology Clerical Officer with NHS Ayrshire and Arran, says those with the disease are struggling with more than just an allergy.

She said: “We are not just allergic to cold – it’s much more than that, our bodies struggle to cope with different temperatures.

“Some of us – myself included – have periods of excessive sweating where the cooled sweat reacts and makes us itch.”

Now Jackie, whose mental health has also suffered as a result of the condition, says rising energy prices are just another worry she has to deal with.

She added: “The price hike for me is an additional burden as I am presently fighting my own battles due to my condition

In severe cases of CU, anaphylaxis can occur, resulting in fainting, a racing heart, swelling of limbs or torso, and shock.
In severe cases of CU, anaphylaxis can occur, resulting in fainting, a racing heart, swelling of limbs or torso, and shock.

And Jackie is not the only one, according to Yorkshire Live.

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Nyree Clark also suffers from the same condition, with her skin flaring up into painful rashes all over her body when exposed to the cold.

The mum-of-two said: “It feels like I’m on fire and you can feel the heat from my skin as it goes into overdrive.

“Also, you get the pain which feels like itchy nettle stings – your mouth, throat and tongue swells and you struggle to breathe and even walk.”

The condition is so debilitating that Nyree considers basic tasks like going shopping to be a dangerous venture, with energy price hikes and rising cost of living only adding to her woes.

Nyree Clark suffers from Severe Idiopathic Cold Urticaria.
Nyree Clark suffers from Severe Idiopathic Cold Urticaria.

She said: “I felt very scared, as it is a life or death situation for myself and other sufferers

“To put into perspective, if it was a peanut allergy when the energy bill hikes up, you are placing someone in a room full of peanuts.

“That is what is happening to CU sufferers if that makes sense.”

As things are, Nyree is already battling to keep the lights on.

She barely gets by on her current wages and energy prices are stretching her earnings to the max.

“We are on the edge of paying our way, but how much further can you make your wages go?,” she said.

To mitigate the current prices, Nyree has come up with lifestyle changes which include keeping the temperatures just above the level they trigger her illness – but way below optimal levels where she would be comfortable.

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“Normally I keep the heating on at 20 degrees but now I am having to keep the house between 16 to -18 to try and save on heating,” she said.

“So in the evening it is extra blankets or going to bed earlier to keep warmer under the duvet.”

Nyree, who is married and a mother of two teenagers, feels she has been backed into a corner and a ransom placed on her life.

“The choices are to go into debt or to live,” she said.

The symptoms of UC are excruciating.
The symptoms of UC are excruciating.

For other families, the burden of the disease is daunting.

One woman, who did not want to be named, detailed her battles with two of her children who have CU, and the massive impact it has on costs.

She said: “Currently have to keep the house at 20 degrees minimum (including at night) or he develops a wheeze and general skin swelling and itching.

“That has to be raised to 22 degrees if he has a bath or he comes out in full hives the second he gets out.”

If the heating were switched off, or kept off, her four-year-old year old son would likely develop a severe reaction.

Those who cannot afford the new prices and are forced to turn off the heating and live with painful symptoms.
Those who cannot afford the new prices and are forced to turn off the heating and live with painful symptoms.

“Every time I hear the heating click on I feel stressed and anxious,” she said.

And the price hikes mean additional changes will need to be made, by a family that has already made several changes that have made their lives uncomfortable.

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She said: “I work as a children’s nurse and my husband is the deputy manager at a children’s home – rewarding but fairly poorly paid jobs.

“I will have to take on extra shifts to be able to pay for the increases, at least one extra a month with the current rise in costs but potentially even more.”

And these extra costs will double as they will be needed for childcare costs as the family spends more time away from home.

She said: “I feel lucky that we have an option where we can keep our son safe at home without cutting back on things like food, but to add an extra shift in without having childcare costs that make the extra work pointless, it will have to be a night shift between my husband’s shifts which means going at least 36 hours without sleep – keeping him safe will mean stretching myself to a dangerous extreme instead.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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