By JOANNA ZEGARRA
Aquagenic urticaria is the allergy to water. As strange and unheard as it seems, it is a real condition. Urticaria literally means “hives.” Aquagenic urticaria is a form of “physical urticaria” that causes small hives when water touches the skin. Normal activities such as showering, crying, rain, snow and hail can cause a reaction. “Individual hives last 24 hours or less. However, the course of a hive episode may be days to weeks, but usually there is spontaneous resolution when the response ‘burns out,’” Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. Doctors can identify and diagnose a case by testing distilled water on a patient’s skin. Thankfully though, this isn’t a food allergy and those affected can still drink water. Aquagenic urticaria is so rare that about fifty cases have been described in medical literature, said Dr. Barney J. Kenet, a dermatologist with the Cornell Medical Center.
17 year old Alexandra Allen, from Mapleton, Utah, is one of the few people diagnosed with this incurable condition. The teen noticed her first severe reaction to water when she was 12 years old after being in a swimming pool and then waking up later that evening itching and covered in hives with what she thought initially was a chlorine allergy.
“I would like to say that I am not the only one with this illness, and there are a great deal of other illnesses like it,” Allen says. “I am willing to speak out about it and let my story become one of these news-cycle fads because I know that somewhere there is a fourteen-year-old girl who can’t go swimming with her friends when they invite her. And I know that she feels freakish.”