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What can I do About a Water Allergy?

By M. Haskins
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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Water allergy is a rare condition that causes painful itching on the skin after contact with water. There is no known cure, but in some cases the condition disappears or lessens over time. It is advisable that one consult a doctor to determine the best treatment. Treatments of water allergy usually focus on minimizing water-exposure and alleviating symptoms with antihistamines, various topical creams and prescription medications.

There are two types of this condition: aquagenic urticaria, where the itching is associated with a hive-like rash, and aquagenic pruritus with no visible rash. Breakouts can occur after showers, rain exposure or even sweating or crying. Soreness and dry eyes are other symptoms of water allergy. Some sufferers also experience shortness of breath and throat swelling after drinking water.

In spite of its name, water allergy is usually not considered a true allergy. Instead it is thought to be an extreme sensitivity to the ions in non-distilled water, or to various substances commonly present in water, for example fluoride, chlorine or certain minerals. Minimizing one's contact with water is recommended for sufferers. This can involve relatively simple measures like taking short showers, using an umbrella when it rains, and keeping cool in warm weather to avoid sweating. Using a water filter in the home can sometimes help, and a carbon filter installed directly on the shower head can also help remove some irritants.

Barrier substances like Vaseline can help protect the skin, and steroid creams, or creams like Zostrix that contain capsaicin, can provide relief. In some cases, the application of emollient creams or lotions before showering, using a shower oil instead of soap, and applying a lanolin-free, paraffin-based aquaeous cream after showering can help reduce skin irritation. Even though it is not a true allergy, oral antihistamines are often used to treat water allergy, and topical allergy sprays can also alleviate symptoms.

Other types of treatment and medication may be recommended by a doctor, for example beta-blockers and leukotriene-receptor antagonists. Ultraviolet B therapy, in which the patient stands in a vertical light-chamber for a prescribed amount of time, is sometimes used to treat symptoms of water allergy, but because it can increase the risk of skin cancer, this treatment is uncommon. Specific symptoms of and effective treatments for water allergy vary greatly from case to case, and a thorough examination by a doctor, dermatologist, allergist or immunologist is recommended for sufferers of this condition.

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Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Apr 18, 2013

@anamur-- I don't know about ultraviolet light but my sensitivity to water has gotten better since I switched to distilled water.

By serenesurface — On Apr 18, 2013

My sister has an allergy to water. The poor girl has to take an antihistamine medication regularly or she will get hives all over her body after showering. She even has reactions after washing her face and hands, it's very bad.

I've never heard about ultraviolet light therapy for a water allergy before. Has anyone tried it?

Would tanning on the beach help?

By literally45 — On Apr 17, 2013

I think I experienced water allergy symptoms once, I'm not sure because I never went to the doctor for it.

It happened when I went to visit my cousin in Texas. I only stayed there for a few days, and the entire time I was there, my skin was extremely itch. There was no visible rash, but I couldn't stop scratching. I was miserable and couldn't even sleep.

I returned home after a few days and the symptoms just disappeared. I was thinking that it was because of the water I drank in Texas (we drank faucet water), but it makes sense that showering in that water caused it too.

The weird part is that my cousin never has this problem.

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