Water (aquagenic) urticaria

Michaela Dutton, a 21-year-old mother from Walsall in the English midlands, has aquagenic urticaria, which causes her to get hives when her skin comes in contact with water, a very rare urticaria which started a week after her son was born three years ago.

Whenever she comes into contact with water she breaks out in a red rash and white blisters. Although she ignored the reactions at first, her symptoms worsened and she went to see a doctor and a dermatologist who told her she had a water allergy.

Water induced urticaria is very unusual, according to Dr Thomas Casale executive vice president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and the mechanism has not really been defined. It appears that people with aquagenic urticaria produce histamine from mast cells in the skin which causes redness, rashes and hives if water touches their skin. It is possible that the reaction is caused by additives in the water rather than the water itself.  

Normally it only affects water touching the skin but Micheala Dutton's sensitivity is such that she can only bathe for about 10 seconds each week and cannot drink water, juice, tea or coffee. She is also restricted from eating certain fruits and vegetables.

Physical urticarias tend to occur in individuals starting in their 20s and 30s but it is impossible to predict how long the condition will last. Most urticarias are treated with antihistamines but Casale said that because they are so rare, there have been no major breakthroughs in treatments.

Courtesy of ABC World News

First published March 2010


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