Aquagenic urticaria is a skin condition that is distinguished by the outbreak of a rash following exposure to water. The rash can develop within minutes of contact with water, and may remain for as long as two hours. The rash is often painful and itchy, causing extreme irritation for the sufferer.
There is currently no cure for aquagenic urticaria, though medications are still sometimes prescribed in an attempt to treat it. The condition may be acquired or congenital. Some sufferers develop symptoms after undergoing medical treatment for another condition. Though there is no cure, many find their sensitivity to water diminishes over time.
This condition is colloquially described as a “water allergy”, but this description is not entirely correct. Urticaria develops when the body releases histamine, and histamine responses are not always the cause of aquagenic urticaria.
The implication of this is that the rashes are not always caused by an allergic reaction. Studies suggest that patients who have this condition are highly sensitive to trace amounts of substances found in water that has not been distilled, such as ions which are naturally present as well as additives like chlorine.
When an individual with aquagenic urticaria comes into contact with water, red hives will form on the skin. A large patch of itchy red bumps can break out anywhere that the water has splashed on, and may burn or itch.
Antihistamine medications are not always effective in treating the rash, though some topical medications may alleviate swelling and itching. The rash will heal on its own so long as the individual keeps dry.
By exposing a patient to distilled and regular water and observing the reaction, doctors can determine if one has aquagenic urticaria. For those that do not, both the distilled and regular water should have no effect. Once diagnosed, the patient must learn how to manage their condition.
Common activities involving water, such as baths and showers, must now be brief. Activities like swimming should be completely avoided. Patients may also have a reaction to water found in sweat, and may need to avoid strenuous physical activities and stay cool on hot days to avoid sweating.
Mentioned earlier, some individuals with aquagenic urticaria discover that they have become desensitized to water over time, allowing them to once again partake in more activities. Since this skin condition is uncommon, it is crucial that sufferers inform their care providers about the situation.
Young children need to advise their teachers and child care provider as well. Patients should also carry with them a medical alert card with pertinent information about the condition. In the event of an emergency, the card can do most of the talking, so to speak, and alert the care providers to the water sensitivity.