A 17-year-old girl from Mapleton, Utah has a rare and inconvenient allergy to water. Few people are known to suffer from the condition, known as aquagenic urticaria, which causes Alexandra Allen to break out in burning hives whenever water touches her skin. According to ABC News, Allen first experienced a severe reaction at the age of 12 during a family vacation.
“There will be days when you lay in bed covered in hives or whatever your symptoms may be and think that maybe I’m a mess up, a flaw in the assembly line of humanity,” Allen wrote on her blog, describing her affliction as “a printing error in the contract of life.”
Fortunately for Allen, drinking water does not cause a reaction, but every day activities pose a painful obstacle. Allen’s affliction makes something as simple as showering, crying, or getting a few drops of rain on her skin a painful ordeal.
She is forced to find ways to avoid water, limiting the types of foods she eats, avoiding strenuous activities that may cause her to sweat, and taking short cold showers two or three times a week.
At first she thought it was a chlorine allergy—Allen woke up a few hours after swimming in a pool in itchy hives. It wasn’t until three years later that she discovered the condition known as aquagenic urticaria.
Upon further research she realized she fit all of the symptoms and consulted her doctor, who agreed that she suffered the condition.
Urticaria refers to the literal hives, and aquagenic urticaria is the form of physical urticaria that causes Allen’s hives. While many people suffer from urticaria conditions that can cause painful hives, Allen’s case is particularly rare because it is triggered by water.
Although the Journal of Allergy Immunological Practice does not categorize the condition as a true allergy, it recognizes the allergy-like reaction to the skin caused by exposure.
There have apparently only been 50 cases reported in medical literature.
Allen said she shared her story in the hope that others with similar afflictions won’t feel alone or “freakish” because of their condition. Since she’s shared her story, many people have come forward to share their own struggle with forms of urticaria.
Allen herself is not alone, although it is unknown exactly how many people in the world suffer the same reaction to water. Watch the video below to learn about the toddler whose parents say is also allergic to water.
Allen has maintained a positive outlook despite the condition, telling ABC News that at least it “gets [her] out of doing the dishes.”