A young woman who’s allergic to water is able to shower only twice a month and even suffers an allergic reaction to her own sweat.
Tessa Hansen-Smith from California in the US was diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria, a rare condition that develops rapidly when the skin comes into contact with water, when she was 10 years old.
The debilitating condition even means that the 21-year-old has to be shuttled around her university campus so that she doesn’t break a sweat on the way to class.
The student is now sharing her story for the first time to raise awareness.
“It's a really difficult condition to have as I'm even allergic to my own tears, saliva and sweat,” Tessa said.
“I'm really prone to heat exhaustion and have to avoid physical activity.
“I even have to be shuttled around my campus because otherwise I show up in class with a fever, migraine and rashes making it really difficult to concentrate.
“I suffer with a lot of muscle fatigue and nausea too. 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.”
Tessa’s symptoms started at the age of eight when showering frequently caused rashes on her skin.
Initially, she assumed she was allergic to certain soaps.
“I'm really lucky because my mom is a family medicine doctor so, when I kept coming out in these rashes, her first guess was that I was allergic to my soap or shampoo.
“With this in mind, we one by one took them out to see which products I didn't react to.
“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,” Tessa explained.
She and her mother NAME? have had to conduct a lot of their own research to get to the bottom of her condition and her mom has been her primary doctor.
Currently Tessa takes nine tablets a day to stabilise her condition.
“Having aquagenic urticaria can be a mental game at times – it’s hard to take so many tablets every day knowing that it's not actually ever going to stop.
“At one point I was taking 12 tablets a day, currently I'm taking nine.
“I'm frequently reminded that there's no cure to aquagenic urticaria and that I'll never really be fully better, which is definitely a difficult thing to hear sometimes,” she said.
Despite the daily challenges Tessa faces, she’s determined to not let her condition control her life.
“I have always been very determined to be independent and leave my home town for college,” she said.
“I try my best to take things one day at a time because some days are better than others.
“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.”
Sources: Magazine Features