North Wales Katie shuns water even tears over rare allergy
It means she can’t have long soaks in the bath, go swimming, or cry without triggering a burning rash on her skin.
Katie, from Flint, North Wales, has even had to give up her job as a dance teacher because sweat also causes a reaction.
But she can’t get upset and cry – because her tears also cause a painful reaction on her face.
‘Symptoms began after I had my tonsils out when I was about 16.
‘After the operation I had penicillin that I later discovered I was allergic to. Doctors think this may have altered the histamine levels in my body.’
Katie said she soon noticed that she developed a rash every time she came into contact with water.
The condition is so rare that doctors thought at first that Katie was making it up.
‘But doctors still looked at me like I was telling fibs and people would tell me it was all in my head, even though I was in agony. I felt like I was going mad.’
It was only when she moved from Suffolk to Flint two years ago that Katie finally got a diagnosis.
‘I was glad when I got the diagnosis because I thought I was going mad.
‘The condition has, and will continue, to get progressively worse.
‘It started with an itchy neck. Now I have hives, a rash and painful, itching skin which can reduce me to tears, but I refuse to cry – well I try, as that affects me as well, leaving me with a red itchy face.
‘I do get quite depressed and I’m hooked on looking at the weather if I dare leave the house.
‘I usually end up cancelling appointments because of the rain and I find it hard to have a social life.’
She said: ‘I have to be really quick so Andy washes my hair and I wash my body. After, I can’t go anywhere for about two hours because it’s just too painful.
‘Andy is amazing – we have been together 11 years and he’s been fantastic about my condition.
There is currently no cure for aquagenic urticaria and Katie says she has accepted that she is likely to have the condition for the rest of her life.
She said: ‘Just thinking about the things I will miss in my life because of the rain, sweat or because I may cry, brings a tear to my eye but the most upsetting thing is that it’s progressive and I hate to think what it will be like in five years’ time if they don’t find a cure.
‘But I hate to be defeated so I refuse to cry and refuse to get down because life goes on.
‘I would love to swim with dolphins, go to the Disney water park and most of all own a hot tub. We can all dream.’
Lindsey McManus, allergy expert for Allergy UK, said the condition can be triggered by a number of different reasons, from water temperature to chemicals in water.
She said: ‘Aquagenic urticaria is a relatively rare condition. Urticaria is notoriously difficult to diagnose and symptoms include an itchy nettlerash (hives).
‘However, not all forms of urticaria have an allergic component, it could be caused by a physical reaction to things like heat or exercise. It is usually treated by a course of anti-histamines.
‘However, we would recommend the patient visits their GP for referral to a specialist dermatology or allergy clinic, in the first instance,’ she said.
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