Teenager, 19, is allergic to her own TEARS because of a rare condition that causes her to break out in hives if she touches water
- Lindsey Coubray struggles to shower, swim and even leave the house
- Slightest contact with water leaves her breathless and sneezing uncontrollably
- The condition – aquagenic urticaria – affects just 50 known people worldwide
A teenage girl is allergic to her own tears due to a rare condition that causes her to break out in agonising hives if she touches water.
Lindsey Coubray, 19, has aquagenic urticaria, which makes it a struggle to shower, swim and even leave the house in case she gets caught in the rain.
The slightest contact with water also causes Miss Coubray to become breathless and start sneezing uncontrollably, forcing her to take antihistamines every time she bathes.
Miss Coubray, who is one of just 50 known people with the condition worldwide, is also only able to drink milk due to water causing agonising sores to appear in her mouth.
The office assistant, from Wheathamsted, Hertfordshire, said: ‘I struggle to make it through a day at work and find it a challenge to do the things that most people my age take for granted.’
Teenager Lindsey Coubray suffers from an extremely rare condition that makes her allergic to water. Her skin breaks out in painful hives every time she gets caught in the rain or even cries
Miss Coubray (pictured after a shower) has to take antihistamines every time she bathes. Otherwise, as well as developing an itchy rash, her eyes become blood shot, she struggles to breath and she starts to sneeze uncontrollably. The condition affects just one in 230 million
Describing her symptoms, Miss Coubray said: ‘Whenever I have a shower, as well as sneezing, I am covered from head-to-toe in an itchy rash which looks and feels like a nettle rash, my nose burns, and my eyes become bloodshot and swollen.
As well as having to avoid the rain, sunny weather can be equally as difficult.
Miss Coubray said: ‘Warm weather is a particular challenge because I get hot, sweat and then end up with an intensely itchy rash all over my back, arms, head and chest.
‘I also have to avoid going out in the rain and can no longer swim, which was something that I particularly enjoyed.
‘Sometimes, if it has just stopped raining and I go outside, I can find myself feeling breathless.’
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Miss Coubray does her best to manage her condition by taking strong antihistamines, as well as asthma medication to control her breathlessness.
Despite her best efforts, the teen still struggles to live a normal life.
She said: ‘I can no longer swim or go out in the rain or snow. I have to take showers for a shorter length of time and avoid having a bath.’
Speaking of how others react to her condition, Miss Coubray added: ‘There is often a sense of disbelief, followed by questioning how this is even possible.
‘People often wonder how I can be allergic to something that makes up 70 per cent of my body. There’s a lot of curiosity about it and people often ask how I manage to drink or to wash.
‘I don’t think that sometimes people realise what I go through and how frustrating it can be to learn how to manage the symptoms.’
Although she tries to remain optimistic, Miss Coubray admits she struggles to make it through the day and finds everyday tasks, like washing, hard work while others take them for granted
Miss Coubray has always sneezed in the shower but began breaking out in itchy hives around two years ago. She has struggled to come to terms with how the condition affects her each day
When out and about, Miss Coubray has to stay covered up in case she gets caught in the rain
WHAT IS AQUAGENIC URTICARIA?
Aquagenic urticaria causes sufferers to break out in hives after their skin comes into contact with water.
There are around 50 known sufferers worldwide.
Women are more likely to experience symptoms, which typically start around puberty.
The hives are usually red and 1-3mm across. They typically appear on the neck, chest and arms.
Some may also experience itching.
Aquagenic urticaria causes sufferers to break out in hives after their skin comes into contact with water (stock)
Once water is removed, the rash usually fades within 30-to-60 minutes.
Aquagenic urticaria’s cause is unclear but may be due to a substance in water that triggers an immune response.
Most cases occur randomly with no family history of the disorder.
Due to the condition’s rarity, little is known about how best to treat it.
Therpies typically include antihistamines, UV light treatments, steroids, creams that act as a barrier and bathing in sodium bicarbonate.
Source: National Institutes of Health
Miss Coubray claims she has always sneezed while showering but was only diagnosed with aquagenic urticaria two years ago.
She said: ‘When I was diagnosed I had reached the point where I was expecting it as it had become obvious what was causing my body to react.
‘However, as the condition has worsened it has become difficult to come to terms with impact that is has on my life.’
Miss Coubray also suffers from postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTs), which causes her heart to beat abnormally fast when she goes from lying down to standing.
Just making her bed can send Miss Coubray’s heart rate to 175 beats per minute, as well as causing dizziness, chest pain and nausea.
Ironically, staying hydrated is one of the best ways to combat PoTs.
Miss Coubray explained: ‘When [I was] diagnosed with PoTS, one of the key lifestyle changes recommended to ease the symptoms is to increase your daily intake of water as dehydration worsens PoTS symptoms.
‘However, since developing PoTS, my water allergy has intensified.
‘Having PoTS can often leave me feeling tired and low, so coming out in an allergic reaction to my own tears can feel like the final straw.
‘I struggle to make it through a day at work and find it a challenge to do the things that most people my age take for granted.’
Miss Coubray is speaking out to to raise awareness of the condition and has set up an Instagram account ‘aquagenic.urticaria’ to inspire other sufferers.
She said: ‘I am part of an online group for people with aquagenic urticaria from around the world and we are trying to raise awareness of this condition in the hopes that there will be more treatment options developed in the future.
‘I felt as though I was a bit lost, but the group has helped to answer many of my questions and talking to people with the same condition has been really reassuring. They have also helped me to find ways to deal with symptoms.
‘Staying positive, speaking to other people in the same situation as me and sharing or supporting others through my own online health page means that I am able to manage this condition and feel happy.’
Summer is also difficult due to her sweat causing her to develop an itchy rash all over her chest, backs, arms and legs. Miss Coubray is also unable to swim, which she once enjoyed
Miss Coubray once felt ‘lost’ but connecting with other patients helps her stay positive
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