By Liana Jacob
THIS WOMAN who is so allergic to ANY watery liquids including her own sweat and tears that her skins feels like ‘frying hot oil’ and becomes red-raw making her so at risk this summer that she must wear light clothing while outdoors in the sun and avoid being rained on at any cost.
It wasn’t until 2007, when photographer, Valentina Bones (25), from Budapest, Hungary, moved to California, USA, that she discovered she had aquagenic urticaria; a rare condition in which hives, or a rash develop rapidly after the skin is exposed to water, regardless of its temperature.
From the age of 17, she noticed she was having an allergic reaction to water, which her mother thought was just something in the water where they lived in America. Initially the doctor believed it was most likely a vitamin deficiency.
Her rash develops within just two-minutes when her skin is exposed to warm temperatures as opposed to colder temperatures, where she can last for about 20 to 30 minutes without a rash.
Her condition has caused strangers to stare at her, which has made her feel insecure, but she has since found ways to control the affects.
“For me, any liquid triggers aquagenic urticaria; water, sweat, saliva and even juice from a juicy fruit. I don’t do any sports or physical activity that I know will result in me getting unwanted attention due to how my skin looks,” Valentina said.
“I took night classes in college because it was too hot and humid in the classroom during the day. As long as my body stays dry, my allergy to water does not make my life less happy.
“I was born and raised in Europe, where I never had any allergies or skin problem. Shortly after I moved to America in 2007, I started getting small red rashes on my face after getting in coats with water or sweat.
“By the time I was eighteen, it affected my face, chest and stomach area. The rashes are red, itching and burning. By the time I was twenty-two it affected eighty percent of my body; arms and back included.
“I tried different allergy and herbal medication, but nothing seemed to stop the itching, not even Aloe Vera or itching cream.
“After years of trying different methods to ease the pain and itching, I’ve developed the habit to limit my contact with water as much as I can; stay indoors during a rainy season and wear light clothing when it is hot outside.”
Valentina describes her daily routine, including her unique way of taking a shower to avoid getting a rash.
“The most common question I get when I tell someone I have water allergies is how do I shower? In the summer I shower with cold water, at an average time,” she said.
“In the winter I either use wet wash cloths or I shower with slightly warm but not hot water for less than three minutes.
“I wash my hair separately by bending over in the tub so I don’t have to spend extra time in the shower with water getting in contact with my skin.
“I take bubble baths maybe twice a year as a treat, on my birthday or Christmas. Which makes me really sad because I adore bath bombs; you can find me at a Lush store smelling everything.
“For my face the rashes come out from anything liquid at any temperature; hot or ice cold. On the rest of my body it comes out faster with higher temperature water.
“For example, my body can be in a cold pool for half-an-hour without any problems and then it will come out slowly and less painfully.
“If I get in a jacuzzi, bath tub or a steam sauna, the rashes will come out within approximately a minute to two-minutes.
“But it also comes out from sweating after the gym or a dog licking me. So if anyone thinks this may be just caused by ‘something in the water’, it is not.”
She now says that the increase in social media activity has helped raise awareness of the rare condition. When she first found out about her condition, she explains that there was hardly any information about aquagenic urticaria anywhere online.
“Aquagenic urticaria is so rare that a few years ago it didn’t even have a name. I remember googling ‘water allergies’ when I was young to find out more information about it,” Valentina said.
“All that came up on Wikipedia was simply water allergy with barely any information. All I could find on it was that it is very rare, and it affects one in twenty-three million people and there is no cure.
“With the internet and social media growing at an enormous speed; there have been more and more people coming forward with this allergy and finally someone named it.
“I can cover up my body, but I cannot hide my face which bothers me the most. I don’t let anyone see me during that time.
“At home I just suffer through the pain, however, when it happens in public, it can be quite embarrassing.
“I remember going to Disneyland once during the day and they had water sprinklers in the air to cool people down. It got on my face and chest, shortly the rashes came out.
“I tried my hardest not to scratch because the looks I was getting from people was embarrassing enough. Now I always carry around a light sweater that would cover my upper body in case I got in contact with water unexpectedly.
“My advice to anyone else with this condition is to find a living style that works for you. Always think ahead and plan your day on how you may be exposed to water unexpectedly and be prepared.
“My skin is affected by anything liquid included body lotion and hydrating creams. If you can’t keep your body hydrated from the outside like me, drink a lot of water and hydrate from inside.”