The first year of Ivy Angerman’s life was spent splashing around in the bath, running through sprinklers during the hot Minnesota months and playing in the snow when a storm came through.
But that all changed when she was 14 months old. The toddler — from Hastings, Minnesota — began to experience severe reactions when she came into contact with water.
“She was a super happy-go-lucky baby,” her father, Dan Angerman, 31, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Now she’s so afraid of the water, she starts screaming bloody murder the second she gets in the tub.”
Finally — after months of Dan and wife Brittany Angerman, 28, trying to figure out what was wrong with their baby girl — Ivy was diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria on January 21.
The rare and incurable condition literally makes her allergic to water, meaning everything from bath and pool water to her own sweat and tears causes the 23-month-old to swell up in a painful red rash of stinging blisters and burning hives.
“There is still so much we don’t understand,” says Brittany, who also has a 9-month-old daughter. “It’s rarer than you think.”
The couple is forced to take it day-by-day and find themselves confronting endless unknowns.
“It was 106 degrees here the other day,” says Brittany, “so we had to keep Ivy inside. She would sweat too much and that would cause a bad reaction. It hurts to see her hurting.”
Adds Dan, “She looks at water puddles, points and says, ‘Ouch!’ “
Unless it’s early in the morning and dry with no humidity, Ivy is forced to stay at home.
“She can’t do daycare or go to the park,” says Brittany. “It’s not the normal kid life.”
The family recently had to move out of the home they rented because there was no air conditioning and are now living with Dan’s grandmother. They are tirelessly trying to raise money on a GoFundMe page with the goal of buying a house with a purified-water system they hope might lessen the irritation to Ivy’s skin.
According to Dr. Hirsh Komarow of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, most people who develop the condition are young adults, although approximately five cases of children under the age of five have also been reported.
And while “symptoms resolve spontaneously” within 10 years for most people with urticaria, with “so few cases of aquagentic urticaria, there are no reports that have followed patients long-term.”
Both Brittany and Dan stay up at night wondering how severe the condition will become and if Ivy’s allergy to water could become internal.
“We don’t know what will happen,” says Brittany, “but we do know that Ivy will be okay. We won’t have it any other way.”