Water, a substance most vital for survival, can also lead to an allergic reaction characterized by severe itching. This rare condition called water allergy is an annoying and disheartening situation for the sufferer.
Water allergy or ‘aquagenic urticaria’ refers to a rare form of itching, which is induced by contact with water. The allergy may appear with water at any temperature, and usually there are no visible changes in the skin, unlike other allergies or skin conditions characterized by visible skin lesions or rash. Most sufferers have even expressed their sheer dislike towards bathing, due to the severe itch that follows.
An intense, prickly itching begins right after the skin comes in contact with water, or on entering a cold and humid room. Symptoms become worse when the person is exposed to freezing temperatures. It has been observed that allergy from rainwater tends to be more severe, than that caused by normal tap water. The itching may persist for several hours after contact with after.
Water allergy is an idiopathic condition, and does not have any specific etiology. Although, chemicals such as histamines are known to be released in the body as a response to contact with water, they are not the primary cause. However, it has been associated with hypereosinophilic syndrome, juvenile xanthogranuloma, polycythemia vera, and myelodysplastic syndrome.
Most sufferers are misdiagnosed because of the absence of visible symptoms such as skin rashes, skin lesions, etc. In certain cases, the patients are considered to be psychoneurotic, and are prescribed with antidepressants or anxiolytics.
As bathing may produce a severe allergy, it is advisable to apply an oil-based emollient before bathing. This would prevent the skin from coming in direct contact with water, thereby reducing the intensity of itching. Another way to counter the symptoms is to make use of cotton bed sheets, quilts, and clothing made of cotton. Materials such as synthetic clothes, woolen blankets, etc., are more likely to aggravate the condition. Also, always dry yourself quickly, using towel made from 100% cotton.
Consume fresh fruit juices, and plenty of dark green vegetables. Refrain from the consumption of alcohol, coffee, mangoes, and spicy as well as fried fast foods. A combination of short-acting antihistamines and those which have a long-lasting effect, help in reducing the intensity of itching. You can also apply capsaicin cream to the skin, in addition to the intake of antihistamines.
For severe itching, the dermatologist may recommend phototherapy with Psoralen-UVA or filtered UVB. These procedures have been known to deliver promising results in most cases.
Although, not easy to manage, water allergy is can be managed through appropriate medication and precautions. Note that, all incidences of itching after bathing, do not imply water allergy. Such itching can be indicative of other conditions like contact dermatitis. Hence, it is advisable to seek professional consultation for an accurate diagnosis, and prompt treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.