After being vaccinated at five-years-old, Owers developed a rare and adverse reaction known as cold urticaria, which makes up one to three percent of all urticarias.
Her rare disease meant that she is allergic to the cold - a sudden decrease in
"Your body normally fights off bacteria and viruses and parasites, but in this instance, instead of attacking something useful, it latches onto allergy cells in the skin," said Dr. David Fischer, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Side effects: Social and developmental skills affectedIn the past, there was little medical literature on this seemingly “weird” illness, which affected Owers' quality of life. She describes those years as, “strange times”, and said that adults usually told her to “get on with it”. She only discovered the cause of her allergy when she sought help from neuroscientists in her thirties. Her confidence, in particular, was greatly affected in her early years, making her socially withdrawn.
“My early years were horrendous,” she recounts. “The minute I got cold my skin was covered in itchy hives. It was like I had a bubble wrap body. My hands and feet would go completely dead, and it itched. It lasted for around 30 minutes until I got warm."
“I didn’t want to be seen. Children would say ‘ewww you’re infectious, I’m not coming near you.' So I always covered myself up,” she said. Trips to the beach also involved covering herself up in a coat with a blanket over her, while her siblings enjoyed the water.
“I thought I was horrible and ugly. I’ve always felt that I can’t be seen, and I’d die before going in a communal changing room,” she added.
In addition, her linguistic skills were underdeveloped, and she was socially inept. She confessed, “I barely spoke until I was about 20. I never said a word. I used to hide and try to merge into the background. It had a big impact on me.”
"I do warn the
seen, but mental trauma remains
Owers' symptoms only improved when she turned 25. The reactions were less severe, and the hives stopped. This marked a great improvement, but, she remains “very allergic” to the cold. Fischer added that usually, cold urticaria fades after five or six
Despite her improvements,”It’s a bit of a big mystery to me as I don’t know much about it at all," she contends. "It’s something I grew up with. I suppose I'm used to it now. I just get through."
But the mental trauma of her growing up years was never forgotten. "I get so frightened if I wake up and I have this huge dread. Everyone my age says 'I’m cold too' when I tell them - but they don’t have any idea how horrendous you feel when you’re sick with
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