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Jakub Paulík
February 23, 2022, 10:34pm
Reading time: 6:48

Water Allergy is Like Hell on Earth. Sweating or Drinking May Cause a Lot of Pain

Several daily activities are extremely painful for those allergic to water .

Jakub Paulík
February 23, 2022, 10:34pm
Reading time: 6:48
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Water Allergy is Like Hell on Earth. Sweating or Drinking May Cause a Lot of Pain
Zdroj: Pixabay/artbykleiton
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Living without water is impossible for humans, but those with water allergies must avoid it at all costs. If they get in touch with water, they'll have a severe reaction within a few minutes. Regular hygiene is, therefore, a real struggle. Forget about a nice hot bubblebath.


Some aren't only allergic to water from the outside environment but also their own urine, tears, or even sweat. There have also been cases where people get reactions and have trouble breathing after drinking regular water. Dr. Monika Kolejakova from the Department of Immunology and Allergology told us some more about water allergy.



Source: Wikimedia/WikiRigaou

About 34 people currently suffer from water allergies worldwide

Those who suffer from water allergies must give up swimming in the pool, river, or sea. Even rain can really stir things up. Despite having an umbrella, every drop reflected on their skin would cause unnecessary suffering.


Due to their medical condition, they often suffer from depression or anxiety for understandable reasons. In this case, it is necessary to seek the help of experts. A 2019 study confirmed a higher incidence of mental disorders in people with chronic urticaria.


Aquagenic urticaria, also called water allergy, is a type of urticaria characterized by the appearance of rashes all over the body after contact with water and the skin. It is usually very itchy, according to Healthline. A condition called Aquagenic pruritus has similar symptoms, in which a person feels itchy but does not have a visible rash on their body.


Both are simply referred to as water allergies. There are extremely few cases recorded and thoroughly investigated. For that reason, a minimum of space is devoted to it in the medical literature and studies.


"I'm not aware of any relevant research on patients with water allergies. There are very few reported cases worldwide. Usually there's the formation of swelling and hives on the skin after contact with water. However, one young man also described a narrowing of the air passages after drinking water. It is not widely written on or researched in literature. These cases are extremely rare. It's also questionable whether they haven't been mistaken for another type of physical hives caused by the cold - and not necessarily cold water - or cholinergic hives, meaning after exercise," said Dr. Monika Kolejakova from the Department of Immunology and Allergology for Refresher.


According to the Daily Mail, water allergy affects one in 230 million people. Currently, about 34 people are estimated to be affected by it. According to a 2011 study, doctors recorded a total of less than 100 cases.


Zobraziť tento príspevok na Instagrame

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa AQUAGENIC URTICARIA. 💧 (@aquagenic.urticaria)

There is no cure, but the allergy might not last the entire lifetime

Water allergy is extremely rare, but it makes life very difficult for those affected. "In terms of quality of life impairment, it's one of the worst skin diseases you can have," the BBC quoted Marcus Maurer, founder of the European Center for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF).


Physicians often prescribe strong antihistamines for patients with this diagnosis. There have also been cases where doctors have tried ultraviolet light therapy.


"The treatment is no different from other chronic urticaria. If water cannot be eliminated - which, of course, is not - treatment with 2nd generation antihistamines begins. If 1 therapeutic dose doesn't fix it, which is usually 1 tablet per day, it is increased to 4 tablets per day. At the same time, the so-called UAS7 - assessment of urticaria activity in 7 days, which has its own international scale, is recorded during this treatment. If the evaluation of this score shows a very high activity even at a dose of 4 tablets a day, biological treatment is usually used," the doctor told us.



23-year-old Niah Selway from Hastings, England, is allergic to water. Her water allergy began to escalate during puberty. In this period, water allergy, according to the Allergicliving website, began to manifest itself the most. However, it sometimes occurs in an adult or child before puberty. A 2011 study found that a 4-year-old boy also experienced symptoms of a water allergy. Daily Mail mentions the case of an adult, 21-year-old Michaela Dutton, who developed an allergy after giving birth.


Niah Selway talks about her health situation in her videos on Youtube, so we can take a closer look at her symptoms. Doctors thought that the allergy was probably caused by a change in hormones. They haven't been able to help her to this day. There is currently no universal cure for water allergy. So essentially, it's being worked out by the system of trial and error.


The effectiveness of different methods is very individual and depends on each person. At the same time, the symptoms, level and duration of pain that a person experiences are also different. The emergence of a water allergy is still a mystery, but according to the doctor, it is possible that the affected people will not suffer for the rest of their lives, but only for a certain period of time.


"In general, in more than 50% we do not know the trigger or mechanism of chronic spontaneous urticaria. However, we do know that it is limited to a certain period of the patient's life, so it's quite possible that this also applies to water allergies," she said.


Zobraziť tento príspevok na Instagrame

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa AQUAGENIC URTICARIA. 💧 (@aquagenic.urticaria)

Water allergy is not so much an allergy

Tens of liters of water, which the human body contains, are not an obstacle for allergic people. We do not have a clear answer on how this is possible.


"That is why it is questionable whether the allergy to water is actually real or whether it is for another reason. Allergies to one's own tears and sweat have been described very rarely, but even there, doubt arises whether it is really an allergy to water as such or rather to the substances contained in it. That would probably explain why most people allergic to water drink water without problems and only have issues with the skins contact with water," the doctor explained.

At this point, therefore, water allergy differs significantly from "common allergies", which represent contact with something that is foreign to the human body, unlike water (animals, dust, etc.). Thus, in essence, it does not have to be an allergy but a specific and poorly-studied type of disease. However, experts from all over the world can't seem to agree on what this undesirable health condition actually causes.


Zobraziť tento príspevok na Instagrame

Príspevok, ktorý zdieľa AQUAGENIC URTICARIA. 💧 (@aquagenic.urticaria)


Crying only causes further suffering

Those allergic to water may feel the urge cry out of frustration, but most prefer to rather avoid this because it causes even more pain. As Dr. Kolejakova mentioned, we know of exceptional cases where even one's own tears may cause an allergic reaction in people. Niah Selway from England is such an example.


In the program called This Morning, she said she almost felt as if she was "boiling" when she cried. She also clarified that the painful sensation does not start immediately after the tears fall on her skin. The first reaction in the form of itching and redness will start within 5-10 minutes. Even if you keep scratching the affected area, it probably won't help you in any way.


Source: Wikimedia/Minghong

How to avoid sweating?

Some water allergy sufferers are inherently allergic to several excreted body fluids because they contain water or a substance that causes an allergic reaction. For the same reason, urination is very painful for some of them. Niah Selway claims that even antihistamines won't ease her pain.


Unfortunately, sweating also causes an allergic reaction, so she must avoid increased physical activity or clothes that are too warm. Selway carries a small fan with her which she constantly uses to cool down (she also had it with her in the This Morning show).


Fluid intake can also be very problematic for some. "I have only seen two cases of swelling of the air passages when consuming fluids. Usually, drinking water does not cause the problem, only when it comes in contact with the skin," said Kolejakova. However, Niah Selway is one of those people whose fluid intake also causes an allergic reaction. And she is not alone.


Some of those who suffer from this allergy have no choice but to suck it up and simply suffer through the pain of drinking water or other beverages. However, some have found it better to find a replacement instead of clean water. Michaela Dutton, whose allergy began after birth, replaces clean water by drinking diet cola. Her body tolerates it. According to The Mirror, Lindsey Coubray from Britain drinks milk instead of water.


Healthline informs that more serious symptoms after drinking water include difficulty swallowing and trouble with breathing. When the air passages swell, the question arises as to whether a water allergy could take someone's life. For example, if the person suffering from the allergy stays in the water too long. According to the doctorá, there's no clear answer to this.


"If it really is an allergy to type I. water, that is, IgE mediated, then probably yes. But I have to say that no one has yet identified the precise mechanism of water allergy, so these are all theoretical assumptions. And the published cases no longer reported the subsequent development of the person's life. However, the patients concerned do avoid water very much, and it is unthinkable that they would stay in the water for a long time to be at risk. I've never heard of death due to a water allergy," she said.


Source: Instagram/aquagenic.urticaria

She comes out of the bathroom with a fever

Another great issue for those affected is hygiene, which needs to be significantly reduced, and they only shower exceptionally. Niah Selway said that she suffers from "painful itching, burning and high fevers" after any shower or bath. The water then reaches practically every part of her body, and the pain is so great that it immobilizes her for several hours.

As a result of that, part of the day she doesn't get to live to the fullest, but rather merely survives. "It is extremely exhausting. I spend most of my time recovering," she said on This Morning. However, the allergist and immunologist Monika Kolejakova pointed out that hygiene, like any other contact with water, is highly individual with allergic people. Some may tolerate it better, some worse.


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Thumbnail: Instagram/aquagenic.urticaria, Youtube/Niah Selway
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