It’s hard to imagine someone actually being allergic to water. Yet Alexandra Allen, who once wanted to be a marine biologist, can’t swim in a river, a lake, or an ocean. She can’t dip her toes in a pool. If she needs to bathe, she can’t do it more than twice a week. When she does, she breaks out in painful hives.
Allen spoke to People about her condition, which has only been documented 50 times worldwide. She discussed what it’s like to live with aquagenic urticaria, which makes touching water physically unbearable:
“It was excruciating,” says Allen, who now takes a cold five-minute shower twice a week, has cut off her long locks to reduce shampoo time and avoids sweating. She has also become a vegetarian to reduce the amount of oil her body produces.
Allen can still drink water, but that may not always be the case:
Thus far, Allen hasn’t had a problem drinking water, but she says she recently talked to a British woman with the same affliction who now drinks only Diet Coke because her esophagus was affected by the disease as she aged.
“We joked that we’d both found a way to avoid doing dishes,” says Allen.
So all you need is a horrible skin condition and suddenly people don’t bug you about drinking soda anymore. That’s cool. The throat closing up part? Not so much.
What’s most interesting is that Allen’s condition was initially diagnosed by her ten-year-old brother, who did research when doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. His research encouraged Allen’s dermatologist to give her the appropriate tests. Fortunately for her, she’s not allergic to dogs or a good attitude (I know, I know) and says that things could always be worse. Maybe, but only if there’s a farm girl in ruby slippers stalking her.