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Can someone be allergic to water?

There was redness and itching, some blisters. Getting out of the shower should have felt refreshing, but all Michaela Dutton felt was miserable and itchy – her bath water was to blame.

Dutton was shocked to learn she was allergic to water, but perhaps she should not have been. While water allergies are extremely rare, almost anything from heat to a dust mote to the nickel in a mobile phone can trigger an allergic reaction.

Talk to any physician who treats allergies, and they’ll liken their job to that of a police detective. Constantly on the hunt for the unknown offender, an allergy consult often seems more like a witness interrogation featuring a litany of probing questions.

Michaela Dutton, 21, has aquagenic urticaria, which causes her to get hives when her skin comes in contact with water. While physical urticarias are not uncommon – people can develop hives within minutes in response to ordinary stimuli including heat, cold and pressure – sensitivity to water is far less common.

Dutton said she broke out in a red rash and white blisters after she took a bath about a week after her son was born three years ago. Although she ignored the reactions at first, her symptoms worsened and she went to see a doctor and a dermatologist who told her she had a water allergy.