An 18-month-old girl’s severe allergy to water has gotten to the point where even a 15-second bath will cause rashes, hives and blisters that leave her in excruciating pain.
In October, Ivy Angerman, of Hastings, Minnesota, was diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria, a rare condition in which urticaria [hives] develop rapidly after the skin comes in contact with water, regardless of its temperature, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center.
“It’s something we still can’t wrap our heads around,” Ivy’s mother, Brittany Angerman, tells PEOPLE. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
When Ivy cries, her face swells up from her own tears. Her sweat will even cause a reaction. She can no longer play in the snow, and even a few raindrops can result in an outbreak. Brittany is dreading the thought of telling Ivy that she can’t swim in the pool or enjoy the sprinklers with her two siblings this summer.
“She used to love the bath and now she’s screaming bloody murder when we have to wash her,” says the 27-year-old mom. “It feels like a third-degree burn. She runs around screaming that she’s hot. It’s so hard to watch as a mother.”
The reaction can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, but if she takes an antihistamine — her only treatment — the reaction time is less.
“I’ve tried so many things to make it more comforting for her, but it’s not working,” says Brittany. “And it’s only getting worse.”
Brittany wishes she could avoid bath time altogether because watching her daughter in pain is “torture,” she says. Ivy now receives a bath twice a week, unless she gets dirty from being outside. They’ve limited her outdoor activities to avoid additional bath time.
For now, doctors say the only recommended treatment is antihistamines twice a day, which Ivy is starting to become immune to. She now only takes the allergy medicine on bath days to help minimize her reaction.
Brittany says her daughter is typically a “happy-go-lucky kid” and has always been “daddy’s little girl.” It was only six months ago that Brittany and her husband Daniel, 31, noticed that she was breaking out in rashes around bath time. They eliminated every bath product they had, changed laundry detergent and switched her diet. The couple even went to hotels and other family members’ homes to see if different bath water made a difference.
But nothing helped.
An allergist finally gave them the shocking diagnosis, which they are still coping with.
“We love her to death and we’ll do whatever it takes,” says Brittany, “but we’re also very scared for her future.”
For now, she only has a reaction when she has direct contact with water, but Brittany is frightened she could become allergic internally.
“I wonder if one day her throat will start to swell up when she drinks it,” she says. “We don’t know if she’ll be able to go to day care or what job she’ll be able to have in the future.”
They already notice that if she drinks too much juice — or any product that contains water — she breaks out when she urinates.
Brittany, who also has a 6-month-old newborn and a 12-year-old stepdaughter, has created a GoFundMe page to help the family move to a new home that has a well, a purified water system and central air, as it would limit the severity of her daughter’s reactions.
“The house we’re renting now was built in 1901 and doesn’t have air conditioning,” she says. “It’s a house that is very hard to keep cool and will be extremely difficult for Ivy when it gets warm.”
“The entire situation is just mind-blowing,” Brittany continues. “We want people to know this exists and how life-changing it really is.”