You’ve probably heard of peanut, eggs, or pollen allergies. But did you know that people can be allergic to water too? According to a 2016 BBC report, there have been 35-50 known cases of water allergy, also called Aquagenic Urticaria.
Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to substances that either enter or come in contact with the body, such as pet dander, pollen or bee venom.
All living creatures are dependent on water to live. When it comes to humans, our brains and hearts are composed of around 70 percent water, while our lungs contain a whopping 80 percent – even our bones are about 30 percent water. To survive, we need around 2.4 liters of water daily on average, some of which, we get from food. But what happens when you’re allergic to water? You’ll be in a torturous state.
Of all the allergies in the world, Aquagenic Urticaria —an allergy to water that causes patients to develop hives after coming into contact with water of any temperature, may be the strangest. Only about 30 to 40 people worldwide have ever been diagnosed with the condition, yet for those who have, the symptoms can be life altering.
As the definition of Aquagenic Urticaria notes, it is an allergic reaction that affects your skin when it is exposed to water. This could be either rainwater, or the treated municipal water in your shower, or even during extreme sweating or crying.
The hives are usually small red welts with clearly defined edges, and in some cases, they are associated with itching as well. The rashes and hives can become itchy, painful, and occasionally the skin might also blister. The hives most commonly appear on the neck, upper body, and arms and usually disappears within 30 to 60 minutes after drying up.
An allergy to water is very unusual, which makes the process of figuring out the cause of Aquagenic Urticaria challenging. As it currently stands, exactly what causes a person to be allergic to water is unknown.
MD Health suggests that it may have genetic components, specifically on chromosome 2q21. However, the National Institutes of Health report that the condition rarely runs in families.
Scientists are also not sure what causes the allergy, although they hypothesize that it is either caused by a substance dissolved in the water rather than the water itself, or an interaction between water and a substance found on the skin.
There is no direct treatment for Aquagenic Urticaria. But, there are general allergy treatments you can use that could potentially help relieve the pain, itch, and blisters that you may be suffering from. Treatments that may help with Aquagenic Urticaria include:
- Antihistamines, also used for other common allergies, it may also effectively stop the histamines in your body from activating their defenses against an allergen. This response is what causes the allergic reactions like itching, redness, etc.
- Ultraviolet Light Treatments are meant to thicken the outer layer of skin so that the water cannot interact with the mast cells underneath, which would cause redness and blistering.
- Corticosteroids may be able to ease some of the symptoms of Aquagenic Urticaria and have been used as a treatment in the past.
- Epinephrine/Adrenaline may be used to treat severe cases of Aquagenic Urticaria. Epinephrine helps stop severe allergic reactions quickly through injection into the thigh, halting the allergic reaction before it starts.
For most of the allergies, the first recommendation for prevention is avoidance. Water is hard to avoid. Take short showers instead of long baths, if possible. Also, if it looks like it would rain when leaving the house, always carry an umbrella with you.
If allergic to water, you can also use lotions and other topical treatments to make a barrier on your skin that will prevent water from fully penetrating it. Coating the skin with a petroleum-based gel, for example, may be an effective way of doing this.
As weird or preposterous as it sounds, it is a real allergy that can occur in some people. Given that water is difficult to avoid and a part of our daily lives, it may seem hopeless to someone who suffers from Aquagenic Urticaria. But, there is hope.
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on what Aquagenic Urticaria is and how it can be treated. If you have any queries to be consulted, let us know in the comments below.
Reference: Doctors Health Press