Aquagenic Urticaria - Water Allergy

A Rare Medical Condition Known As Water Allergy

Woman taking a shower
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Water urticaria, also known as aquagenic urticaria (AU) or water allergy, is a rare medical condition in which hives develop rapidly on the skin as a result of contact with water, regardless of the source. It doesn’t matter if the water is hot or cold, or has been chemically treated. This includes activities such as bathing, swimming, rainy weather, or any other activity where water comes in contact with your skin.

Some patients with water urticaria experience a reaction if they come in contact with the water they drink.

More women than men are affected with this condition which starts around the onset of puberty. Because the condition is so rare, there is no understanding of the cause or the effectiveness of treatment.

Symptoms of Water Urticaria

The hives that are associated with water urticaria are rather small and usually develop on your neck, upper trunk and arms, but can appear anywhere on your body.

Similar to other forms of urticaria, symptoms of water urticaria include:

  • Itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Hives
  • Skin that has become flushed

After exposure to a substance that contains water, symptoms should appear quickly. After your skin is no longer in contact with water, symptoms should subside.

Diagnosis of Water Urticaria

Water urticaria is generally diagnosed by your general practitioner who will refer you to dermatologist or allergist to confirm your condition.

After taking a complete medical history, your doctor will most likely perform a “water challenge test” where water will be placed on your skin to see if there is a reaction.

Your doctor will perform blood tests to rule out other conditions or diseases.

Treatment of Water Urticaria

There is no cure for water urticaria but there are some treatments that may provide you with relief.

Some of the treatments include:

  • H1 Antihistamines to reduce the severity of the reaction.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) therapy, also known as phototherapy
  • Steroids
  • Diet modifications to reduce allergic responses
  • Using hypoallergenic products
  • Adding a water filtration device to your home’s water supply
  • Creams that will form a barrier between your skin and water

You and your doctor will have to try various treatment plans to find the right one for you. There are support groups and a free national research registry dedicated to rare medical disorders. Many studies are looking for people with specific illnesses to help researchers. In addition, there are clinical trials and research studies currently being conducted on aquagenic urticaria.


  • National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine
  • National Institutes of Health

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