Woman, 25, has rare allergy, her scalp bleeds while showering

Water Allergy

Aquagenic Urticaria, a rare condition in which a person’s skin develops red, itchy hives after exposure to water, affects only 250 people worldwide. There are about 50 cases of the condition reported in the medical literature. Whoever is struck with this condition has a hard time even showering or drinking water. No workouts, and definitely, no heartbreaks or anything that can induce tears or sweat.

Tessa Hansen-Smith, aged 25, breaks out in hives and welts from her sweat and tears and bleeds from her scalp even after five minutes of showering. People report this case through the lens of ABC News, which has captured it.

Speaking to ABC-30, Hansen-Smith elucidated on her condition, named Aquagenic Utricaria, which she encumbered when she was 8, “I would come out of showers and have huge welts on my skin, and my scalp would be bleeding after showering.” The allergy “is a rare condition in which urticaria (hives) develop rapidly after the skin comes in contact with water, regardless of its temperature,” the National Institute of Health says. And while its causes are unknown, “it most commonly affects women.”

Water Allergy 1

Smith’s mother, Dr. Karen Hansen-Smith, is a family medicine physician and the first person who realized her daughter had a water allergy. She said to ABC-30, and People reports, “I feel a little guilty as a mom for not having seen when she would get out of the shower that she had hives, and figuring it out way earlier that it was a water issue.”

Sharing her issue on Instagram, she answered people’s inquiry about her showering, where she said, “I’ve cleaned my body with wet towelettes designed for it here and there, but even then those hurt.” Continuing, she said, “I can keep body odor to a minimum by shaving and using deodorant where appropriate,” Tessa says that she does sometimes need a shower even though “I don’t do a whole lot that makes me very dirty because I can’t.” Standing in a shower for more than 5 minutes, while also trying to not pass out as I hyperventilate while there’s water hitting me, is not a relaxing self-care experience like it can be for others,” she continues to explain.

Tessa continued on her rough journey with the illness at school, reiterating her experience to ABC-30 via People, saying, “When I did tell people about it in college, I would have people try to purposely splash water on me, or I would have people who would throw ice cubes at me.” She adds to this by saying if she drinks water or eats anything with a high water content, she feels a burning sensation — so she mostly drinks milk, as its water content is counterbalanced by fats and proteins (via People). 

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COVID-19 forced her to come back home and, in a way, manage her condition better, but she was recently so dehydrated that she developed ischemic colitis, which the Mayo Clinic says happens when “blood flow to part of the large intestine is temporarily reduced.” During her course in the hospital due to her recent diagnosis, Smith took to Instagram and said, “This led to multiple superficial blood clots and at least one deep blood clot in my right arm.”

Writing in a GoFundMe established to help pay their current and future costs, the 25-year-old said, “We are now struggling to pay my medical bills and make ends meet.”

She finally explained on Instagram her hopes and aspirations for the future, pushing through the tentacles of her rare condition. People report in her words on her social media post, “I’m not getting any healthier because my condition just progresses,” continuing, “I hope that I can go back to school again, I hope that I can get a job again,” she told ABC-30. Continuing, she said, “I hope that I can kind of find a sense of normalcy in life again.”