17 year old Niah Selway is in pain every day, yet she dare not cry. She is so allergic to water that even her own tears make her skin erupt in excruciating hives.
She is one of only 35 people in the world to suffer from aquagenic urticarial.
“Living with it is a nightmare. When water comes into contact with my skin it feels like it’s burning. I’m in a lot of pain and there’s nothing anyone can do.”
The distressing symptoms began when she was five but no one could work out the cause.
So, just like her pals, she went swimming, would get caught in rain and splashed in puddles, never suspecting it was the water that triggered her painful rash.
But as she got older Niah decided to investigate online. She said:
“I found a few stories. One was a girl in America who suffers from the same thing and I was like, ‘Wow, finally I’ve found a name for it’.”
A dermatologist diagnosed aquagenic urticaria but there is no cure.
Niah, who can drink water pain-free, explained: “I’m trying different strengths of antihistamine to see if they can help the level of my reaction but they won’t ever stop it.”
So the plucky business student from Hastings, East Sussex, accepts she must live with her discomfort.
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When she showers, Niah has to time her soak just right to make it as pain-free as possible. “I can be in there for five minutes before it starts happening,” she said.
“But if I were to get out straight away it would get worse so I have to stay in the shower until it stops.
“Even though water makes me have the reaction it’s the water that soothes it as well. I can never tell how long I’ll be in the shower because it depends on the level of my reaction.
“When I take off make-up with baby wipes and use toner and moisturiser it really stings. My face burns for up to half-an-hour but I have to do it.”
Boyfriend Hussain hates to see Niah suffer. She said: “It’s really horrible for him because I just need to be left alone.”
And the cruel allergy means that if it all gets too much, just one tear makes the pain even worse.
Niah sighed: “It will start to sting and feel really sore and difficult to touch.”