Can you imagine not being able to take a refreshing shower, bath, or a dip in a pool or the ocean on a hot summer day? A walk in the rain could be an extremely painful event. Aquagenic urticarial, or being allergic to water, is considered a rare form of physical urticarial that causes a person to break out in painful and/or itchy lesions from any exposure to water.  These symptoms appear regardless of the temperature of water. The condition appears more often in women than men, and patients going through puberty are the most evident to develop the condition.


Symptoms of aquagenic urticaria are usually skin-based, where the skin will itch or develop a rash or hives after exposure to water. Typically hives, or erythema, will appear within the first 15 minutes, and within the proceeding hours these lesions could become painful and even blister.  In extreme cases there may be difficulty swallowing, wheezing, or other respiratory distress.

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Possible Triggers

Bathing, walking in the rain, swimming, having water spilled on oneself, sweating, and even crying are all potential triggers for this condition. Lactose intolerance has been associated with aquagenic urticaria and appears to increase the risk of developing this condition. Familial patterns also appear to coexist with this disease’s location on chromosome 2q21. Also, there appears to be a higher chance for females who are siblings of a Bernard Soulier syndrome sufferer. Diseases including polymorphous, light eruption, HIV infection, cholinergic urticarial, and Bernard-Soulier syndrome appear to have a possible correlation to aquagenic urticaria.

Treating Aquagenic Urticaria

To date, there is no treatment to cure a patient with symptoms of aquagenic urticaria. However, there are treatments used to help with the discomfort. Some of these treatments include oral antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, epinephrine, PUVA therapy, ultraviolet radiation, Stanazolol, Capsaicin, and barrier methods such as oil or emulsion creams.


  1. Aquagenic Urticaria. website.
  2. Brannon, H. Water urticaria. About website.
  3. Wilson, N. Despite an allergy to water, local swimmer dives right in. The Tribune website. January 19, 2015.
  4. Woman allergic to water housebound during unseasonably wet winter. New York Daily News website. February 19, 2014.