A teen with an incredibly rare water allergy has described the agony of her condition – which leaves her unable to shower or even cry.
Abigail Beck, 15, breaks out in a painful rash when water touches her skin – and if she tries to drink it, she throws up.
After three years of suffering from burning welts on her skin every time she showered or got caught in the rain, the teen went to the doctors and described her symptoms.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria, a rare water allergy which causes severe reactions to exposure to water of any temperature.
It most commonly affects women and symptoms often start around the onset of puberty. In Abigail’s case, symptoms first began to appear when she started her period.
Abigail, from Arizona in the US, said: “My own tears cause a reaction where my face goes red and burns really badly.
“I cry like a normal person and it hurts. Tears are one of the worst parts of it because when you cry, your tears shouldn’t burn your skin.
“It runs my life but I don’t want it to. I throw up if I drink water, my chest hurts really bad and my hearts starts beating really fast.”
She added she now avoids drinking water and opts for pomegranate juice or sports drinks instead.
She hasn’t had a glass of water for a year and is forced to take rehydration tablets, with doctors even considering fitting an IV line to get more fluids into her.
“I’m scared that if it gets out of control one day, no one will know what to do including myself. I don’t even know how to help myself,” the fearful teen said.
“I try to keep in good spirits and I know that if something did happen then the people around me will do the best they can.
“It can stop me from being active because I’m worried about dehydration.”
For Abigail, the most frightening thing about her illness is that there’s so little information out there as it’s a rare condition.
“I don’t know if it could kill me, I haven’t been told,” she said.
“I have symptoms that could make my heart stop but nobody knows anything about the condition so they don’t know if my heart or lungs could stop working.
“I have no idea what could happen which is scary for me. I never have the urge to drink water at all, I don’t want to drink it, the taste is bad for me.
“There was talk of me getting an IV line put in so I could take in fluids but that’s more down the road.
“If things keep progressing, I’ll need a more permanent treatment.”
After she first experienced symptoms three years ago, Abigail said it took a long time – and a lot of pain – before she received an official diagnosis.
“It slowly progressed and started getting worse over time. When it rained it hurt really badly, it felt like acid,” she said.
“I thought it was normal so I asked my mum if rain felt like acid to her when it rained and she said no.”
She added she was worried that if she told doctors about her symptoms, she’d be dismissed as “crazy.”
Now Abigail avoids showering every day – but whenever she does step under the water she’s left in excruciating pain.
She described: “When I shower, it starts off pretty mild then I get a rash and red welts then it develops into hives.
“When I get out, the reaction really starts to happen. I have to dry off as quickly as possible. I have to let the water run and get out of the water while I shampoo my hair.
“I’m a very clean person and I try to stay clean without having to shower.”
Living in Arizona, she said she doesn’t have to worry too much about dealing with rain, but if there is a downpour she has to put on three pairs of tracksuit bottoms to keep her skin dry.
Abigail said: “It gets really frustrating. People ask me to explain how it works and I can but I can’t explain why it happens because nobody knows or understands it.
“I had to educate my doctors about my condition because they’ve never had to experience it before.
“When I tell people that I’m allergic to water, people think it’s absolutely ridiculous and a lot of people are shocked by it. People always point out that our bodies are made up of water.
“Some people ask questions which I’m fine with because I’d like to help educate someone so I’m open to answering questions.”