Due to her severe reaciton to water, Alexandra Allen can only take three quick, cold showers a week

By Kelli Bender
April 07, 2015 12:00 PM

Alexandra Allen of Mapleton, Utah, dreamed of working as a marine biologist as a child. Now, at age 17, she struggles to take three showers a week.

Allen has aquagenic urticarial, a condition that causes the skin to have a severe reaction – including pain, itchiness and dryness – to water, reports ABC News.

The teen first started to notice the issue when she was 12, during a family vacation. After swimming in the hotel pool, Allen’s skin became covered in irritating hives. At first, she thought the reaction was to chlorine, but when Allen experienced the same flare up from swimming in a clear lake, she knew it had to be something else.

When Allen was 15 she happened upon a medical site explaining aquagenic urticarial and its symptoms, and knew she had found her answer. Allen brought the information to her dermatologist, who agreed this rare condition must be the source of her problems.

With only 50 published cases of aquagenic urticarial in medical books, there isn’t much known about this condition. Doctors know aquagenic urticarial’s allergy-like outbreaks are caused by rain, snow, sweat or tears, and that the condition is more common in woman than men.

The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but theories suggest aquagenic urticarial is caused by a toxin produced by sweat glands or certain antigens being absorbed into the skin.

Unfortunately, professional’s believe that Allen’s case of aquagenic urticarial is degenerative, meaning the teen will become increasingly more reactive to water over time. Right now, Allen can’t swim, is relegated to two to three quick, cold showers each week and has to avoid humid locations. At some point drinking water may become difficult for the teen.

While the medical community has no clear cure to Allen’s condition, she has found her own way of handling aquagenic urticarial: a positive attitude.

“At least I’m not allergic to dogs – and it does get me out of doing the dishes,” Allen told ABC News.