“It Is Heartbreaking”: Meet a Girl Who Is Allergic to... Water

6 months ago

We all know that the common allergies people suffer from are usually related to specific food, skin and the respiratory system. But there are also some rare types of allergens like sun, sweat, cold weather and even water. The last condition affects only about 250 people worldwide.

Tessa has been suffering from a water allergy since she was a teenager.

A 25-year-old woman from Fresno has developed a rare condition called Aquagenic Urticaria, which makes her allergic to water. This unusual condition leads to the formation of welts and hives on her skin, even triggered by her tears and sweat. Tessa Hansen-Smith, who has been dealing with this condition since she was 8 years old, says: “I would come out of showers and have huge welts on my skin, and my scalp would suffer after showering.”

“So, the first things we kind of did was, ’OK, let’s take away your shampoos, take away your conditioner, take away any soaps you’re using’,” Tessa adds.

Due to her condition, the woman experiences a burning sensation in her throat and body when she drinks water. Consequently, she has adopted a unique approach to manage this issue. She claims to drink milk because the fats, proteins, and sugars in milk assist in allowing the water molecules to bypass her immune system, alleviating the discomfort.

It’s a rare condition that is not well studied yet.

Aquagenic Urticaria, as described by the National Institute of Health, is a rare condition where hives develop rapidly upon skin contact with water, regardless of its temperature. Interestingly, it predominantly affects women, though its exact causes remain unknown.

Dr Karen Hansen-Smith, Tessa’s mother and a family medicine physician, was the one to discover her daughter’s water allergy after years of consultations with specialists. She expressed some regret as a mother for not noticing what was the real reason for Tessa’s allergy: “I feel a little guilty as a mom for not having seen when she would get out of the shower that she had hives, and figuring it out way earlier that it was a water issue.”

“It is heartbreaking. I still have my daughter. But she’s not living the life she wanted to live,” she said. Tessa also has an older sister who does not have a water allergy.

Showering for her is far from a relaxing experience.

While Tessa actively avoids activities that lead to sweating and takes steps to minimize body odor through shaving and using deodorant as needed, she occasionally finds herself in situations where a shower is necessary: “I don’t do a whole lot that makes me very dirty, because I can’t.”

“Standing in a shower for more than 5 minutes, while also trying to not pass out as I hyperventilate while there’s water hitting me, is not a relaxing self-care experience like it can be for others,” she explains.

Given the extreme rarity of Aquagenic Urticaria, estimated to affect fewer than 250 people worldwide, Tessa often encounters skepticism from others. Some individuals even attempt to test her allergy, which can be challenging and frustrating for her.

Instead of water Tessa drinks milk.

Tessa who uses the Instagram name “Living Waterless,” frequently shares her experiences and journey with her followers.

In a 2019 Instagram story post, she explained to her followers that her immune system doesn’t detect every water molecule, which is why she can tolerate some water intake, primarily through milk. She detailed how drinking water leads to a burning sensation in her throat and body, and by obtaining essential nutrients such as proteins, fats, and sugars from her diet, she can better manage and mitigate the allergic reactions associated with her condition.

And while she’s explained on Instagram that “I’m not getting any healthier because my condition just progresses,” Tessa is still looking to the future and hopes to become a nurse. “I hope that I can go back to school again, I hope that I can get a job again,” she said. “I hope that I can kind of find a sense of normalcy in life again.”

Not all people possess the remarkable trait of pursuing their dreams despite life’s obstacles. Another girl Hannah, who was born with a rare genetic bone condition, inspires people all with her makeup achievements, proving that we can be warriors and never give up.


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