Curiosity
November 07, 2016 9:00 am
Sam Edwards / Getty Images

You’ve probably heard of peanut, pet dander, and even pesky ragweed allergies. But did you know that people can be allergic to water? According to a 2016 BBC report, there have been 35-50 known cases of water allergy, also called Aquagenic Urticaria, in the world. The first documented case appeared in 1963 when a 15-year-old girl’s body broke out with hives after only a few minutes of water-skiing.

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Because this allergy is so rare, there is little scientific understanding of the condition. However, scientists have found that water allergy is more common in women and usually presents itself during puberty. According to Dr. Sarah Jarvis, a General Practitioner and BBC Radio 2’s medical expert, “some people are so allergic to water that even their tears or their sweat can cause them to come out in a rash.”

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Utah-native Alexandra Allen was diagnosed with Aquagenic Urticaria in 2013. She cut her hair, became a vegetarian, and has since limited herself to two cold showers twice a week. Allen is able to swallow water, but she has spoken of a fellow sufferer who must drink Diet Coke because her esophagus was affected by the disease as she aged. Although symptoms can increase with age for some, the condition improves over time for many water allergy sufferers. Heavy doses of antihistamines have proven effective in reducing symptoms, such as intense swelling and a red, itchy, “nettle-like” skin rash. Other side effects of water allergy can include a water phobia, as well as anaphylactic shock.

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Allen told New York Magazine, “I’m hoping that by talking about this weird disease, maybe it will help the next 12-year-old who freaks out because she learns she can’t be a mermaid.”

This post originally appeared on Curiosity.com

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