Woman details painful allergy to water: 'Can't live my life'

Sarah Carty
·Lifestyle Editor
·5-min read

A young woman has an allergy to water that is so bad that even her own sweat brings her out in a rash.

Niah Selway, from Kent in the UK, is so allergic to water that even her own tears and urine cause a reaction.

 A young woman has an allergy to WATER - that is so bad that even her own sweat brings her out in a rash.
A young woman has an allergy to water that is so bad that even her own sweat brings her out in a rash. Photo: Caters

The 23-year-old now experiences intense and painful reactions - and has had to leave her job at an insurance company as every time she went to the toilet she was experiencing an unbearable reaction.

"My allergy affects absolutely everything in my life. I can't live my life like everyone else as I am now reacting to my own sweat, urine and tears,” Niah said.

"Rain is also a huge problem for me, especially living in the UK where it rains so much.

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"People assume that I can't wait for winter to be over so there is less rain, but summer is just as bad for me as when I get hot and sweat it also causes me to have a severe reaction.

"So I am also a state in the summer. I have a fan that I take all around the house with me to try and reduce the chances of me breaking a sweat.”

She says that her allergy - Aquagenic Pruritus - has deterred her from having any sort of life and she is now mostly housebound, as well as being unemployed.

Niah hasn't been on a holiday since she began reacting to her own sweat, as she is not willing to run the risk.

She says she can't relax and enjoy a holiday as she is constantly nervous about someone diving in the water near her or accidentally getting a splash of water on her.

Niah's reaction to having a bath
The 23-year-old now experiences intense and painful reactions - and has had to leave her job at an insurance company as every time she went to the toilet she was experiencing an unbearable reaction. Photo: Caters

Niah, who has been in a long term relationship for five years with her boyfriend, Mark, says that her condition also affects her relationship but they have learnt about her allergy together.

"I feel lucky that have grown through this with my boyfriend, I wouldn't know how to start a new relationship and try to explain it all,” she said.

"He is really supportive, for example, he always looks out for me when we are having sex to make sure that I am not getting too hot.”

Niah's reaction to water initially starts off as a tingling sensation, which within five minutes then progresses to an itch which then turns into a burning like pain.

She says that her skin feels like it is burning from the inside out and as though her blood is hot.

"It becomes the most unbearable and uncomfortable pain. It is an itch that you cannot satisfy,” she said.

"My reactions last anywhere between half an hour to four hours. The length of the reaction doesn't matter on the amount of time I was in contact with water.

"I could have a tiny splash and the reaction could last four hours.

"There isn't really much I can do for the pain during my allergic reactions, I just have to ride it out.

"The pain is so bad it makes me lose my coordination, I just have to lay down and wait it out.

"I try so hard not to itch because I don't want to break my skin and cause myself more pain.

"I just try and pat myself to make me feel like I am doing something to try and satisfy the itch."

Niah Selway sitting on a bench
Niah aims to bathe at least once a week, but if her skin is bad then she isn't able to even do it that much. Photo: Caters

Niah aims to bathe at least once a week, but if her skin is bad then she isn't able to even do it that much.

She has recently discovered a no-rinse solution, which she claims is used by NASA astronauts in space. It helps her keep clean without having to come into contact with water.

Niah's doctors in the UK believe that her allergy is incurable.

They have exhausted numerous options to try and help her, but nothing has worked and her condition has only gotten worse.

Niah says she believes that her current doctors are at a loss with what to try next which has caused her to start her own research into alternative treatments.

In her desperate state, Niah has recently discovered a clinic in Germany that specialises in pruritus, which is the specific itch and reaction that Niah suffers.

"I am so desperate to try anything that could help me. I have been accepted as an international patient. I am determined to get there to see what they have to say and if they have any other treatments that I could try,” she said.

"It would be amazing to have a fresh pair of eyes.

"It is going to be expensive, the initial appointment will cost me$1,400 ( £800), which doesn't include travel or accommodation and I will probably need multiple treatments.

"I have started a crowdfunding page to try to raise as much money as possible to help me do this.

"And hopefully get some sort of normality back in my life, so that I can do simple things like taking a bath or not care about getting caught in the rain."

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