At least 60 per cent of the human body is water, yet, bizarrely, a small percentage of people are allergic to the substance.
Rachel Warwick is one such person who suffers from Aquagenic Urticaria, a painful immune system reaction upon contact with H20. She told the BBC that even her own sweat brings her skin out in a swollen and itchy rash that usually lasts for several hours. The condition has been compared to suffering with hay fever while being stung by a nettle bush every day. It is enough to make a sufferer cry, only that can cause their skin to react also.
Technically speaking this is not an allergy but a reaction of the immune system to something in the body. Theories include that contact with water causes compounds on the outermost skin layer to release toxic compounds, prompting an immune reaction, or that the water dissolves chemicals in the dead skin layer, enabling deeper penetration that causes the immune response. Another idea is that it is the result of changes in pressure, accidentally causing the immune system to react while water leaves the skin via osmosis.
Ms. Warwick was just 12 years old when she was diagnosed with this condition that makes simple tasks like bathing and washing the dishes a challenge and can even render her housebound on particularly rainy days.
The treatment consists mostly of strong anti-histamines, which have mixed results in patients. The drug Omalizumab has proven the most effective for the treatment of urticarial, although it is currently being used as an “off-label” treatment method, meaning that it sets back a patient roughly €1,000 a month.
Conducting a trial has proven difficult as Aquagenic Urtica affects a mere one in each 230 million people, just 32 people on the planet. Therefore, it is unlikely that a cure will be found in the immediate future.