‘Winter is coming’ takes on a whole new meaning for this 7-year-old boy, who sadly has to be hospitalised during the colder season as it triggers a severe allergic reaction.
During winter last year, Tommy Leitch had to be put in hospital every month as the cold sparks vomiting, breathing problems and rashes all across his body.
He suffers from severe urticaria and angioedema, conditions which cause swelling and hives underneath the skin.
However, for his mother, Abigail McDonald, 26, it isn’t as simple as keeping the young boy wrapped up during the winter season – heat also triggers his allergies.
It’s a stressful life for the pair – Abigail constantly worries about Tommy’s well-being, as it can be so easy for his allergies to break out. If his symptoms appear, he needs medication immediately.
At its worst, urticaria can cause people to go into anaphylactic shock, while angioedema can make your tongue swell up, restricting your airways.
The mother-of-two, from Amersham, Buckinghamshire, said:
Last winter he was hospitalised every month as his allergic reaction caused him to violently vomit, struggle to breathe and was delirious.
It’s a horrific condition and I always panic about it as it can be life threatening if Tommy doesn’t get urgent medical attention. It is heartbreaking to witness my little boy with an oxygen mask on and with wires hanging off him in hospital but he is so brave.
The family first discovered Tommy’s condition when he was five years old. According to the British Skin Foundation, urticaria (commonly known as hives) affects one in five people during their lives.
I thought it was just a viral infection but the next morning he was covered from head to toe and complaining of stomach and chest pains with a swollen face and stomach.
We immediately took him to the hospital, and he was given anti-histamines and adrenaline and we were referred to a dermatologist who diagnosed him with cold urticaria and angioedema.
For many people battling the condition, the causes can quite often be unknown. As well as harsh cold weather and heat, allergic reactions can be sparked with skin-pressure, sun and even just water.
However, Tommy’s specific condition is rather rare – according to the National Organisation of Rare Disorders, urticaria triggered by the cold makes up around one-to-two per cent of all cases. Angioedema is also uncommon, only estimated to affect one in 50,000 people, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
I am always on guard as we never know when it is going to happen which makes it even scarier. Tommy starts to worry as soon as he sees the rash which I think makes the rash worse.
Naturally, the young boy’s condition puts a strain on family outings – the worrying makes his mum anxious.
As the years have gone on, we have noticed it is both hot and cold weather conditions that cause him to have a flare up. He has missed out on lots of play dates with his friends and as a family we have been unable to go on holiday or on day trips as I am too anxious in case it happens when we are on the plane or abroad.
I had no idea people could be allergic to temperatures before Tommy which I think makes it even more difficult. There aren’t any leaflets in my local GP so I have had to turn to Facebook support groups to learn more and try and find remedies on how to reduce the flare ups.
For more information on angioedema, please visit the NHS website.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.