The Girl Who is Allergic to Water

Ashleigh Morris, 19-year-old girl who is allergic to water.


Teenager Ashleigh Morris can’t go swimming, soak in a hot bath or enjoy a shower after a stressful day’s work – she’s allergic to water. Even sweating brings the 19-year-old out in a painful rash. Ashleigh, from Melbourne, Australia, is allergic to water of any temperature, a condition she’s lived with since she was 14.

Ashleigh suffers from an extremely rare skin disorder called Aquagenic Urticaria – so unusual that only a handful of cases are documented worldwide. When Ashleigh gets wet her body explodes in sore, itchy red lumps that take about two hours to ease. She has to wash. But showering is a painful experience and she can only do it for a minute at a time.

These brief showers are the only contact Ashleigh has with water. The one thing she doesn’t miss is the washing up. “People find it hard to believe, they say things like ‘Oh my god, how do you wash.’

The painful rash that Ashleigh is forced to endure after every interaction with water.

Most of us take showering for granted but for Ashleigh, it’s a painful endurance that often reduces her to tears. “Although my rash is unsightly, and often looks like I’m diseased, the feeling is so much worse than it looks,” she said. “I can’t go anywhere for about two hours afterwards because it’s so severe. There’s been many occasions where I’ve been so itchy, I’ve made myself bleed from scratching.”

Away from water pretty Ashleigh appears like any other healthy teenager. She leads a busy life studying Journalism and Public Relations at a university and working in an office.

Ashleigh spends a lot of time explaining her condition because few people have heard of it. Most doctors and dermatologists have never seen a case of it. “Many people don’t even believe me when I tell them,” said Ashleigh, who hardly believed it herself at first.

She developed the condition five years ago after an acute case of tonsillitis. She was prescribed a heavy dose of penicillin that rid her of the tonsillitis but left her with another problem. “I suddenly started getting a rash after I showered or swam,” says Ashleigh who used to swim regularly and spend a lot of time at the beach. “I tried to ignore it but it got progressively worse so I went to see a dermatologist.”

Ashleigh’s dermatologist, Professor Rodney Sinclair, told her the penicillin had altered the histamine levels in her body and caused the Aquagenic Urticaria to occur. There is no cure and no successful treatment for the condition so the gravity of the situation began to dawn on the 14-year-old Ashleigh. “I was in disbelief for a while, but I soon realized how serious it was. I cried for a few hours, then picked myself up, and kept going. I realized it was something I had to live with,” she says.

Ashleigh found ways to avoid water. She stopped doing sports and anything that made her sweat. She makes sure she stays in air-conditioned places and always has an umbrella in her car. Her family and boyfriend of three years, Adam, 23, are very supportive but her condition makes intimate moments with her and Adam a little difficult.

“We have to sleep with a sheet between us at night, and I can’t go near him if he’s sweaty,” said Ashleigh.

Can you even imagine??? No water! Think about how much water you use in a day…WOW!


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7 Responses to The Girl Who is Allergic to Water

  1. Sam Baskin says:

    It’s really surprising that the doctor’s surmise her condition was caused by an overdose of penicillin, and not something genetic. All prescription drugs have risks associated with them, but I would have never thought becoming allergic to water was one of those risks. I’m interested to know more about this disease, however, and if it really was cause by the penicillin overdose or if there are genetic factors at play. It sounds like medical professionals don’t know a lot about the disease because of the lack of afflicted individuals. Good article!

  2. Emily Prater says:

    I don’t even know how to react to this article; I am in complete and utter shock! I actually felt my eyes widen when I read the title of your blog, and as I read its contents, my jaw dropped pretty much to the floor. I feel so incredibly bad for Ashleigh. I literally cannot even imagine what she goes through on a day to day basis, especially because showering is THAT unavoidable. The poor girl… Even the little nitty gritty details that didn’t come to mind when I thought ‘water,’ like rain and sweat, can’t come in contact with her skin. Unbelievable.

  3. Matt Bierowski says:

    Wow, what an amazing story. I could not think of a more awful condition to live with only because almost everything we eat, drink, and clean involves water. Although this article does invoke my sympathy, it also shows how strong the human race is. It is so inspiring that Ashleigh is not only fighting through this predicament, but also that she has not let it affect her life. I could not imagine my life if I had this disease, but I do know that from now on I will not complain about little nuisances when someone like Ashleigh is fighting such a horrible disease and living with it as well.

  4. Samar Almarzooqi says:

    Every week, I am surprised by what interesting health stories you find. I never thought water could cause harm to anyone. There are so many diseases and health problems still not understood by the science community, and I find it nerve wracking to think about them. I enjoy my hot showers, and I cannot imagine living with that condition. It really puts things into perspective when I read about these situations because it makes me realize how blessed I am; during those few time where I think my life sucks, I know there are others out there living in worse conditions.

  5. Caitlin Lloyd says:

    Ah! This horrifies me. I couldn’t imagine a condition like this. So many times in our life we come in contact with water and to think that she enjoyed swimming before this condition took place. It is also unfortunate that it happened as a reaction of medicine that was prescribed for her. You find really interesting and unusual, but sad, stories!

  6. TJ Sullivan says:

    I’m really really interested by this. It’s definitely a shame that she can’t enjoy a lot of the things that we take for granted. I love swimming and being out in the water so I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t engage in those activities. She has to be able to drink water though, right? In general, a water allergy just seems so odd because of how much of the body is comprised of it. Great article!

  7. Alyssa Ardolino says:

    This article really took me by surprise. Allergic to water?! That would be terrible! Her story is inspiring, and I’m glad you shared it. I can’t believe I complain about some little sicknesses sometimes when people have such larger issues. This article has definitely changed my perspective.

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