Of all the allergies in the world, a unique type of allergy called water allergy is the rare one. It is medically called Aquagenic urticaria. It causes the patients to have hives on their body if they come in contact with water. It includes water of all temperatures even the freezing water.
This strange condition is so rare that only a few people have diagnosed with it in the entire world. This article is about understanding this rare skin condition.
What is water allergy?
Water allergy to water urticarial is a form of physical urticaria. The characteristic symptom of water allergy is a skin reaction that immediately caused your skin to turn weird like a beehive.
It is called as water allergy but it is not actually a true representation of allergy. It is not histamine releasing allergic reaction like most of the other allergies. This skin allergy doesn’t care about the temperature of water such as cold, hot or freezing. Even if there is a chemical inside the water i.e. chlorine or fluorine, it still shows up.
A Scottish Physician William Cullen used the name urticarial, back in 1769. It is a proof that it was diagnosed even a few centuries ago and it is not really an outcome of the polluted environment today, as most of the people believe that emergence of new diseases is caused by environmental changes.
The name urticarial is derived from a Latin word Urtica, it means a stinging hair or nettle. The classical representation follows its resemblance with a flowering plant called urtica dioica. Historical evidence suggests that this water urticarial is evident back to 1000-2000 BC. At that people assumed it to be a rash.
What are the common symptoms?
The symptoms of water allergy are very similar to skin rashes that are often caused by skin allergens. This appears like a beehive on the skin which is super itchy. It starts to appear on the skin as soon as the patient of water allergy touches the water. It could be anything from washing hand, bathing, walking in rain or even sweating in hot temperature. These hives also show up when a person cries.
The hives that appear on the skin are red and small in size. They have clear margins and often cause itching. The most common areas for hives to appear are neck, upper body, and limbs. These hives disappear on their own within 30-60 minutes when the body becomes completely dry.
In extreme cases, the individuals may have symptoms appearing in the throat when they drink water. In that case, that individual can only drink coke as all other beverages containing water can cause blisters to form in the throat.
Causes of water allergy
There are very few cases of water allergy. No one is really sure that why do people show this reaction. Assumptions say that affected people may have a genetic reason linked to it. it gives rise to a hypothesis that water allergy runs in family.
There is no evident research on it. it is not certain that either it is a chemical inside water that causes this reaction or it’s the water itself causing skin rashes. It can affect men and women both. It is not evident in kids.
The symptoms only appear when the individual hits puberty. It can go worse in later years of life.
Diagnosis of allergy from water
To diagnose the water allergy, it is necessary to evaluate the clinical history of the obvious signs, if any. The patient is then tested via water. In this test, he is subjected to water to the upper side for maximum 30 minutes.
This water test can be completed via exposing the body to water or using a soaked paper or towel. Generally, tap water, distilled water and saline water, all three types of water are tested separately.
After removing the water, the skin is analyzed for 15-20 minutes, which is the standard time for symptoms to show up. The doctor may also perform other specialized tests, based on the signs to confirm water allergy. This may include testing water at different temperature.
Is there a treatment for it?
There is no treatment to get rid of water allergy completely. There is no defined reason for this rare type of skin allergy that is why there is no specific medicine for it that you will take and it will be gone.
Most treatments that are used in this condition are only to make the symptoms better. It promotes comfort to the patient whenever he comes in contact with water.
Some of the treatment options that work in water allergy are as follows.
- Oral antihistamine medicines
Antihistamines that are used in general allergic reactions are frequently used to ease the symptoms of water allergy. These include hydrochloride, hydroxyzine, terfenadine, and others.
The effects of these medicines may vary from person to person. Applying histamine antagonists has not helped so far in water allergy.
- Tropical corticosteroids
The corticosteroids are also helpful for water allergy symptoms. But they may not work for everyone. Only a doctor can evaluate a person’s condition and tell if can use corticosteroid or not.
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The acute skin rashes and ulcers due to water allergy need something more to treat the condition. Most of the times, epinephrine helps to reduce the appearance of this cutaneous vasodilation. And cell degranulation.
Other treatment options include
- PUVA therapy
- UV radiation therapy
How to prevent water allergy to hit you?
In an allergic reaction, avoiding the allergen is the general prevention tip. A topical application of antihistamine before exposing the skin to water can also reduce the appearance of hives. Certain emulsion skin creams i.e. petroleum jelly is a good barrier against water on skin. If it is used before taking a bath or getting in touch with water, the symptoms of water allergy can be controlled.
The effectiveness of different types of drugs varies from person to person. Not all medicines work well in each case. There is a dire need to search the definite patterns of this rare allergy. Only this will make the irritant symptoms of water allergy to be under control.
Water allergy is not actually an allergy from the water. It is a skin disease, which has not been much studied to know the exact reason and mechanism behind it.
Calling it an allergy is just to refer the condition that a person gets skin rashes when he touches water or the water touches his skin. Do not mix it with an allergic reaction i.e. dust allergy.