By Marissa Bailey

(CBS) — Food, grass, medicines. They can all cause allergies.

So can the cold weather.

For most of us, these bitter temperatures are just an annoying inconvenience.

But for others, as CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports, the cold can be life-threatening.

“I started feeling tightness in my chest,” Fatima Anwar says.

On vacation during her first pregnancy, she thought eating shrimp might have triggered her reaction. But when she came home to a wintry Chicago, it happened again.

“I started welting up like on my face, on my body,” she says. “It’s just like a really burning, painful sensation.”

So she went to see an allergist — and got a surprising diagnosis.

“They did an ice cube test,” Fatima says. “I welted up and they said you’re allergic to the cold.”

Yes, that’s a real condition, attests Dr. Deeba Masood of Northshore University Healthsystem.

Symptoms “can range from hives all the way up to swelling of the airways,” she says.

They’re rare and it’s not known what triggers them. They may come on suddenly, Dr. Masood says.

People who are allergic to the cold may not be able to eat, drink or even hold something cold, run cold water over their hands, go swimming or play in the snow with their children.

This harsh winter has been extremely stressful for Fatima, the mother of two young girls. To help prevent reactions, she takes an antihistamine every day and carries an Epipen with her wherever she goes.

When she goes out she tries to avoid exposing her skin to the damp, cold weather.

“I can’t wait for April,” she says.

Dr. Masood says moving to a warmer climate isn’t the answer. Air conditioning and sweating can also trigger cold allergy symptoms.