‘I could die if I cry’: Agony of young woman who is so allergic to water that her TEARS cause potentially deadly burning rash
A young woman fears she could be killed by her own tears because she is allergic to water.
Katie Dell, from Flint, North Wales, suffers with the condition aquagenic urticaria, which is so rare it affects just 35 people in the whole world.
When she cries, her tears bring out a painful rash. And long soaks in the bath are out of the question because they trigger burning inflammation.
Flare-up: Katie Dell before exposure to water (left) and with instant red patches under her eyes while crying
The 27-year-old was even forced to give up her job as a dance teacher because her perspiration caused a painful reaction on her skin.
The condition, which can in some people trigger potentially a deadly anaphylactic shock, is getting worse and she fears it will end up killing her.
WHAT IS AQUAGENIC URTICARIA
Urticaria, also known as hives or nettle rash, is a condition in which short-lived swellings occur anywhere on the body.
These swellings (weals) may be pale, pink, or red, of different sizes and shape and itchy. As the raised weals flatten, they leave red marks that disappear usually in a day. New weals may then appear in other areas
The itchy reaction is caused by the release of histamine in response to a number of different triggers. Some form of it affects 20 per cent of people at some point.
However, aquagenic urticaria – triggered by water of any temperature – is extremely rare. The weals appear between 15minutes and two hours after exposure to water (as shown, right, on Katie’s chest after a shower).
In more severe cases drinking water can cause minor swelling in the throat.
There is no known cure. Symptoms can be lessened by reducing exposure – such as taking quick showers, applying petroleum jelly to the skin as well as taking anti-histamines.
She said: ‘Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I have days where I want to crawl into bed and cry but of course, I can’t.
‘Someone said I could die from it but I don’t want to know about my life expectancy. Until they find a cure I just have to live with it. I’m taking each day as it comes.’
Mrs Dell’s symptoms began at 16 when she had her tonsils removed. Doctors suspect the pencillin she was given may have disrupted histamine levels in her body.
Her husband, Andy, 32, has given up his job as a delivery driver to be her full-time carer.
She said: ‘People didn’t understand my condition and would give me a funny look when I told them I couldn’t shower.
‘My condition is worsening but I don’t want to think about what I’ll be like in 10 or 15 years.
‘Andy has been amazing and does all the things I’m not allowed to do, like the washing up.
‘I have to be in and out of the bath in two minutes and Andy has to wash my hair for me.’
There is currently no known cure for aquagenic urticaria but Mrs Dell is trialling a new drug to try to control her condition.
‘At the moment I’m taking a drug that transplant patients take,’ she said.
the same way the drug tells their body not to reject a new liver or
kidney, it is telling my body not to reject the water on my skin.
Help: Katie with her husband Andy, who has given up work to be her full-time carer
‘Next they want to try a drug that cancer patients take to try to build up my immune system.
‘The next stage after that is chemotherapy but I don’t really want to go down that route because it makes you ill.’