Student suffers from extremely rare allergy to water: 'It's a really difficult condition to have'

A California college student suffering from an extremely rare allergy is speaking out about her condition, which reportedly affects just one in every 230 million people. 

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Tessa Hansen-Smith, a 21-year-old student at University of California, Davis, revealed that she has aquagenic urticaria, a condition in which hives form after the skin comes into contact with water. 

"It's a really difficult condition to have as I'm even allergic to my own tears, saliva and sweat," she told the publication. "I'm really prone to heat exhaustion and have to avoid physical activity."

Hansen-Smith allegedly exhibited symptoms as early as eight-years-old, when she would break out in a rash every time she bathed or showered. According to the Mail, her parents originally thought she had an allergic reaction to particular soaps and shampoos. Despite attempting to narrow down the source by removing various products from her own use, Hansen-Smith still experienced rashes.

After researching her symptoms, Hansen-Smith's mother, a family medicine doctor, purportedly determined two years later that her daughter had aquagenic urticaria. 

"To help the rashes, I'd take an allergy tablet, which got rid of them, but aquagenic urticaria gets worse with age, so that no longer works for me like it did," the college student said. 

The 21-year-old told the Mail that, at one point, she used to take 12 antihistamine tablets per day — now, she takes nine. Still, that hasn't made her life any easier, she said. 

"I suffer with a lot of muscle fatigue and nausea too," Hansen-Smith said. "The sickness is usually caused by me eating something with a lot of water in foods like some fruits and vegetables. Even drinking water can cause cuts on my tongue."

5 PHOTOS
College student suffers from rare allergy to water
See Gallery
College student suffers from rare allergy to water
Felt cute might delete later 💕 Headed to the ER today after visiting my doctor and deciding I needed more medical attention. Got heat stroke on Monday and haven’t been doing well since. Had a lot of nausea and pressure in my head, been very dizzy and have the chills. Hopefully with a steroid anti-histamine injection and slow IV drip I’ll be feeling a bit better. #disability #aquagenicurticaria
Fresh out of the shower 🚿 I get asked how I clean myself a lot, and the truth is I only shower about twice a month. Even then this is the result. Hives and rashes, sometimes better and sometimes worse than this, start forming on my body. Mainly around my neck, chest, stomach, arms and face. They can be excruciatingly painful, or pretty easy to ignore. #disability #aquagenicurticaria
Another reason big girls don’t cry👀 When I tear up from anything, cutting onions, sadness, or just my eyes feeling irritated cause they’re pretty allergic to themselves already, I’ll usually get rashes surrounding my eyes. Sometimes on the lid itself, or just the corners and soft skin right under the eye. It’s hard to put any medicine on rashes around your eyes because they’re so sensitive. So I usually just wait them out. Both of these rashes have been around my eyes for about 2 weeks now, so it is a process. #disability #disabilityawareness #aquagenicurticaria
I get rashes on my body quite often, but especially where clothes rubs/rests on my skin. Even during a slow walk, the body will produce some amount of sweat. Most of the time it’s so minuscule people will never even notice it—but we have to wash our clothes because they’re getting dirty somehow! Even though when I walk slowly (the only form of exercise I can really handle) sweat is produced, but while it starts out as a very small amount like everyone else, my body quickly reacts to this and makes my temperature increase, which in turn makes me sweat more. It’s not a great cycle for this allergy. This is just one example of what my skin looks like, the waistband of my leggings I was wearing today rests on my stomach. There are no bumps because the medication I take helps reduce the allergic reaction, but the skin will still flare up and be extra sensitive. If I started to itch these spots (which I try really really hard not to) then rashes and hives can quickly pop up and persist for a lot longer than this sensitivity. I try to post pictures and videos that show physical, observable reactions, because since half of this allergy is all internal the worst parts of my allergy are invisible. People with invisible disabilities and conditions face a lot of discrimination and hate. I’ve had people, even people in the medical field, accuse me of lying about my condition if I can’t produce reactions visible to the naked eye. When I was in the ER a few weeks ago receiving IV infusions, the nurse didn’t believe me at first that I had to have steroid anti-histamines injected first or the saline would hurt me. But in between injections of medicine saline needs to be injected to flush the IV tube, and during this time she saw me grimace in pain and asked me to show her where the pain was. I pointed to part of my arm, starting in my wrist where the injection site was, and following an odd path up my arm. She looked shocked when I perfectly pointed out the route of a deep vein, and only then did she believe I was in actual pain. This condition is hard enough to deal with, but the accusatory attitudes that come from others makes it hard mentally. So be kind to everyone! 💕
Having an invisible disability can come with a lot of challenges. Recently I’ve been looking into getting different services for people with disabilities that could actually truly benefit my daily life. It’s already a hard thing to accept that you might need extra help, and it’s another to actually seek out that help. One woman I was speaking to straight up accused me of faking and asked if I was “actually disabled” or just trying to get added benefits. I don’t care if someone has a visible or invisible disability, if someone is trying to find a way to make their life even slightly better you don’t accuse them of faking their hardships. Rashes and hives are a visible part of my disability, but if I’m taking precautions each day I don’t always have them. One thing that’s always constant is dehydration. Look at your own hand right now, it’s probably puffy with very few lines. This picture of my hand is completely unfiltered. I show this to people as a way of convincing them I am allergic to water, even when I’m drinking gallons of milk a day my body just simply won’t hold onto the water that well. Those deep lines and discoloration serve as a reminder to myself on bad days, I know I’m not faking my hardships, I know I struggle, but I also know I can thrive. #aquagenicurticaria #invisibledisability
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Due to her allergy, the student added that she occasionally needs to be driven around campus. 

"I even have to be shuttled around my campus at college because otherwise I show up to my class with a fever, migraine and rashes making it really difficult to concentrate," she said. 

Despite her condition, Hansen-Smith told the Mail that she isn't letting it control her life. 

"I try my best to take things one day at a time because some days are better than others," she said. "If I'm able to see my friends and loved ones without having to leave early due to feeling sick or make it to all my classes in one day, I see that as a win in my book."

Read Full Story