A California college student suffering from an extremely rare allergy is speaking out about her condition, which reportedly affects just one in every 230 million people.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Tessa Hansen-Smith, a 21-year-old student at University of California, Davis, revealed that she has aquagenic urticaria, a condition in which hives form after the skin comes into contact with water.
“It’s a really difficult condition to have as I’m even allergic to my own tears, saliva and sweat,” she told the publication. “I’m really prone to heat exhaustion and have to avoid physical activity.”
Hansen-Smith allegedly exhibited symptoms as early as eight-years-old, when she would break out in a rash every time she bathed or showered. According to the Mail, her parents originally thought she had an allergic reaction to particular soaps and shampoos. Despite attempting to narrow down the source by removing various products from her own use, Hansen-Smith still experienced rashes.
After researching her symptoms, Hansen-Smith’s mother, a family medicine doctor, purportedly determined two years later that her daughter had aquagenic urticaria.
“To help the rashes, I’d take an allergy tablet, which got rid of them, but aquagenic urticaria gets worse with age, so that no longer works for me like it did,” the college student said.
The 21-year-old told the Mail that, at one point, she used to take 12 antihistamine tablets per day — now, she takes nine. Still, that hasn’t made her life any easier, she said.
“I suffer with a lot of muscle fatigue and nausea too,” Hansen-Smith said. “The sickness is usually caused by me eating something with a lot of water in foods like some fruits and vegetables. Even drinking water can cause cuts on my tongue.”
Due to her allergy, the student added that she occasionally needs to be driven around campus.
“I even have to be shuttled around my campus at college because otherwise I show up to my class with a fever, migraine and rashes making it really difficult to concentrate,” she said.
Despite her condition, Hansen-Smith told the Mail that she isn’t letting it control her life.
“I try my best to take things one day at a time because some days are better than others,” she said. “If I’m able to see my friends and loved ones without having to leave early due to feeling sick or make it to all my classes in one day, I see that as a win in my book.”