A health care student is so allergic to water that she gets caught in the rain and pulled out her skin in huge, itchy welts.
Haley Diaz, 23, of Miami, Florida, was 14 when she first developed a rash on her torso, face and arms while showering.
However, it took six years and their own research before doctors finally diagnosed her with aquagenic urticaria – an extremely rare condition that has only been recorded 50 times in the medical literature, according to the UpToDate clinical platform – in which the skin resurfaces in itchy hives Contact with water.
Hayley’s condition, unable to swim or take a dip in the ocean, makes washing her hair an ordeal and leaving the house in bad weather a well-planned operation.
And while studying, she did a 30-day experiment on herself to see if she could cure her own condition.
The Masters student at Miami Dade College said, “It was really difficult to deal with at first. As a kid, I cried and felt left out when I had to sit by the side at pool parties or stay on the beach. “
She continued, “I could join in, but I knew I had to pay the price – an hour of continuous itching.
“Now, as an adult, it’s just something I live with. Everyone has something unique about them, mine is just a little different from most people’s.”
An avid swimmer and competitive cheerleader as a kid, that all changed at the age of 14 when Haley began breaking out in beehives.
She said, “I took a shower and broke out for the first time. It was terrible.
“I hurried to show my parents and they had no idea what was going on – they thought it might have been an allergic reaction.
“Soon it started every day.”
Doctors first diagnosed that their hives were being caused by heat rather than water, and told them to take a cooler shower.
But she said, “I just felt it was the water because otherwise I wouldn’t get the rash if I was hot.
“It soon started when I was sweating too.”
Fear that her condition could send her into anaphylactic shock – a potentially fatal side effect of some allergies – Haley tried prolonged exposure to water to see how her body would react by the age of 15, but luckily she never had More serious side effects than the rash.
Even so, the condition affected her social life when she was younger.
She said, “I couldn’t go swimming to pool parties, which were lots of when I was growing up – it really sucked.”
She added, “It was so difficult to explain to my friends and classmates that I was allergic to water.
“I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me at the time and people would think it was a joke, that I just didn’t want my hair to get wet or anything.”
In Haley’s case, the beehives don’t affect her legs, feet, or arms below the elbow – which she has no medical explanation for.
Your upper body, upper arms, neck, and face are the worst affected areas.
She has to wash her hair in the sink two or three times a week because she couldn’t stand being soaked from head to toe long enough to shampoo and condition, but she refuses to shower less than once a day .
She said, “I try to keep showers for less than five minutes and keep my face away from the water.”
She continued, “I always look away from the shower head because the itch on my front is so much worse, and I have to shower in the evening because it makes me feel so exhausted.
“I was never told why water was doing this to me. There is a lot of discussion these days about whether or not my allergy is an autoimmune disease.”
She continued, “From what I’ve read, the condition usually begins at the onset of puberty.”
She added, “I was given birth control at the time to control my heavy periods. So I wondered if that was the reason – but I have no evidence and the doctors aren’t sure either.”
It takes a minute or two of water for Haley’s symptoms to flare up – and it’s not just water that is triggering her allergy.
She said, “Somebody sprayed me with perfume once and it made me break out.”
She continued, “I was also at a house party about two years ago and this guy accidentally spilled alcohol on me, which seeped through my top and gave me a rash on my stomach.
“He was super apologetic and I rushed to the bathroom to take it off – he had no idea it wasn’t because I was worried about a stain.”
Every morning, Haley needs to check the weather to see if it’s going to rain, as a flood in Florida could make her itchy for hours.
She said, “I have to be super organized when I start my day.
“When it rains, I have a little umbrella tattoo on my wrist so I don’t forget to bring one with me before I leave the house.”
Hot days are also problematic.
She explained, “When it’s hot, I always park as close to the school as possible so I don’t sweat too much, and I have a fan adapter that I can plug into my phone.
“Sometimes I even walk around with an ice pack on my top to keep myself cool.
“Since they’re at the base of my spine, the itching isn’t that bad there if the water causes a small outbreak. And if it does, it’s a matter of picking out the lesser of two evils.”
Even everyday activities like visiting the hairdresser are problematic.
She recalled, “I had my hair dyed a blonde ombre style and they washed my hair in one of their little sinks.
“I didn’t think it was going to be too big of a problem, but my whole head broke out in beehives and the staff, understandably, freaked out.”
She continued, “They said,” Are you allergic to hair dye? “And I said,” No, I’m allergic to water. “
“You wanted to stop, but it was only half done. I had already paid for it and I really wanted it to look nice.
“In the end everything worked out fine, but it was almost unbearably itchy and of course my hair is all natural now,” she laughed.
Even now, Haley has received some ill-informed comments from other adults.
“The two biggest misconceptions about my condition are that I can’t drink water and I don’t wash. I’ve made people say,” Wow, you must stink “.
“Both are not true, however. Some people with severe form of my condition cannot drink water, but luckily, I am not one of them. “
She continued, “There is also a variant of the condition called aquagenic pruritus, in which people experience excruciating pain from contact with water.
“If I ever feel a little down because of my allergy, I’ll just consider myself lucky that I don’t have it.”
When she began studying at Nova Southeastern University in Florida to become a medical assistant at the age of 18, Haley finally decided to use her medical knowledge to get an official diagnosis.
She recalled, “Some research on aquagenic urticaria was just published, so I took this information to my doctor and convinced them to run tests.
“I was finally diagnosed at the age of 20, six full years after symptoms started. That’s the problem – it’s still so unknown even to doctors. “
After trying antihistamines unsuccessfully, Haley decided to experiment on herself as part of a project in her sophomore year and share her findings with her course.
She said, “There is this homeopathic product. I decided to see if it helped my condition by swallowing a tab for 30 days and doing tests every day.
“On some days my beehives were completely gone after showering – on other days they came back, so it wasn’t conclusive in the end.”
With the support of her friend Damian, 24, who “always takes care of me and makes sure I leave the house with my umbrella,” Haley hopes to one day set up her own practice that will rely on the support of people with chronic conditions Diseases focused.
She said, “I always like to find the silver lining, and in my case, my water allergy means that I am more empathetic to others and that also makes me better at what I do.”
“I’ve always been a patient first and foremost – it gives me a different perspective than other medical professionals, so I’m grateful for that.”