A young woman who suffers from an extremely rare allergy to water says her life has been ruined because of the condition, which causes her to ‘claw’ at her skin after showering to ease her pain. 

Loren Montefusco, 22, from South Carolina, suffers a burning itch deep under her skin whenever she comes into contact with water – forcing her to avoid showering for as long as possible. 

The University of North Carolina Wilmington student said she ‘claws’ at her skin to cause herself pain in order to distract from the unbearable itchiness she experiences. 

She first noticed her reaction to water when she was 12 years old and was diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria at 19 years old. 

Since her diagnosis, Ms Montefusco says her condition has gotten worse and her symptoms have gotten more severe. 

Aquagenic urticaria, which has only ever been reported approximately 100 times, causes hives to form when a person’s skin comes into contact with water, such as in the shower and pool – and sometimes even from a person’s own sweat. 

Loren Montefusco, 22, from South Carolina, first noticed her allergy to water, known as aquagenic urticaria, when she was around 12 years old

Loren Montefusco, 22, from South Carolina, first noticed her allergy to water, known as aquagenic urticaria, when she was around 12 years old

She suffers a burning itch deep under her skin that can last for more than an hour every time she comes into contact with water

She suffers a burning itch deep under her skin that can last for more than an hour every time she comes into contact with water

Loren said she claws at her skin to put herself in more pain to distract from the unbearable itchiness

Loren said she claws at her skin to put herself in more pain to distract from the unbearable itchiness

Ms Montefusco says she is forced to avoid showering for as long as possible and when she finally does have to bathe, she does so as quickly as she can to avoid prolonged exposure to water. 

She added: ‘It’s been difficult to navigate as a young woman, and I thought it was disgusting that I try not to shower but lucky I found a group on social media of other sufferers who also refuse to shower. It makes me feel less gross.

‘Dry shampoo is my best friend because the longer I spend in the shower washing my hair, the worse it gets.

‘I have tried washing myself using a cloth and water, but it’s still using water and causes an allergic reaction so I usually have to use body wipes.’

Ms Montefusco first experienced the agonizing symptoms when she began puberty. 

While little is known about the rare condition, scientific literature has suggested the onset is typically during this crucial period of development.

WHAT IS AQUAGENIC URTICARIA? 

Aquagenic urticaria causes sufferers to break out in hives after their skin comes into contact with water.

There are between 50 and 100 known sufferers worldwide.

Women are more likely to experience symptoms, which typically start around puberty.

The hives are usually red and 1-3mm across. They typically appear on the neck, chest and arms.

Some may also experience itching.

Once water is removed, the rash usually fades within 30-to-60 minutes. 

Aquagenic urticaria’s cause is unclear but may be due to a substance in water that triggers an immune response.

Most cases occur randomly with no family history of the disorder.

Due to the condition’s rarity, little is known about how best to treat it.

Therapies typically include antihistamines, UV light treatments, steroids, creams that act as a barrier and bathing in sodium bicarbonate.

Source: National Institutes of Health 

Most of the time, her reaction starts from showering and bathing, but she said she also suffers the reaction after being in the ocean, hot tubs, pools and from her own sweat.

The 22-year-old said the pain and itching are the worst things she has ever experienced, and showers as little as possible to prevent the symptoms.

She also avoids using body scrubs or shaving, as they would trigger her reaction even more.

As soon as she gets out of the shower, the student has to quickly fully cloth herself to stop air from hitting her skin, as that heightens the pain as well.

Ms Montefusco said: ‘It’s horrendous. It feels like the itch is deep below the surface of my skin.

‘I try my hardest not to itch, but I can’t help it. I claw at my skin to put myself in more pain so I don’t feel it irritation of the itching. I just have to ride it out.

‘Nothing helps it or stops it [and] it can last up to an hour.

‘Nothing actually appears on the surface of my skin, as it feels like it comes from deep beneath my skin, but my body becomes red and irritated from where I itch.’

The cause of the allergy is unclear, but it is thought the condition may be due to an allergen or chemical in water – rather than water itself – that triggers an immune response. 

Most cases occur randomly with no family history of the disorder.

Symptoms can include the reddening of the skin, burning or prickling sensations, welts or a rash. 

To diagnose the condition, doctors will conduct a physical exam to see what symptoms someone has.

They may also perform a water challenge test where they will apply a room-temperature water compress to a person’s upper chest for half an hour in order to trigger a reaction.

Due to the condition’s rarity, little is known about how best to treat it, but some therapies include antihistamines, UV light treatments, steroids, creams that act as a barrier and bathing in sodium bicarbonate.

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