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Teen with Rare Allergy to Water: "I Am Not Just That Water Girl"

The Short of It

A teenager from Utah has been diagnosed with a rare allergy to water. But Alexandra Allen says she is "not just that water girl."

The Lowdown

Seventeen-year-old Allen first noticed an allergic reaction after swimming in a pool when she was 12. She attributed her hives to the chlorine or another pool chemical and didn't think much of it. But then a dip in a lake brought on the same reaction.

At age 15, Allen came across a website describing aquagenic urticarial, a condition that causes a painful allergy-like reaction when skin comes in contact with water. She believed this was the mystery ailment she'd been suffering from, and doctors confirmed the hunch.

Aquagenic urticarial is rare and incurable. Only about 50 cases are known to medical science. It's not actually a true allergy, but swelling, redness and hives appear on the skin after exposure to rain, sweat or even tears. Typically, people develop symptoms sometime during puberty. The cause of the illness is not understood, but it may get worse as she gets older. Allen says she expects drinking water may become a problem later on, because she has spoken to a British woman with the same diagnosis who told her she can only drink Diet Coke now.

The Upshot

Allen doesn't want people to characterize her based on her illness. On her blog she writes:

"I am willing to speak out about it and let my story become one of these news-cycle fads because I know that somewhere there is a 14-year-old girl who can't go swimming with her friends when they invite her. And I know that she feels freakish."

Allen herself can relate to that feeling, as she writes, "There will be days when you lay in bed covered in hives or whatever your symptoms may be and think that maybe I'm a mess up, a flaw in the assembly line of humanity, a printing error in the contract of life."

But her message for that girl is: "Kid, you are no mistake, you are not a grand human being despite your illness, your flaws, or your peculiarity. You are grand because you are grand."

Bravo to this brave teen for not being afraid or ashamed to speak out about her rare allergy and for encouraging others who battle unusual conditions to hold their heads up high.

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