There was redness and itching, some blisters. Getting out of the shower should have felt refreshing, but all Michaela Dutton felt was miserable and itchy -- her bath water was to blame.
Dutton was shocked to learn she was allergic to water, but perhaps she should not have been. While water allergies are extremely rare, almost anything from heat to a dust mote to the nickel in a mobile phone can trigger an allergic reaction.
Talk to any physician who treats allergies, and they'll liken their job to that of a police detective. Constantly on the hunt for the unknown offender, an allergy consult often seems more like a witness interrogation featuring a litany of probing questions.
Sometimes, the case is tough to crack, because you can be allergic to just about anything. Some people are even allergic to medications that are used to treat allergies, such as corticosteroids.
Still, seldom are these incidents one-of-a-kind phenomena. Even the most unexpected allergic response is likely to be duplicated in another person, somewhere.
In order to make the job easier for fellow allergy investigators, doctors will publish accounts of rare allergic reactions in medical journals and share their findings at medical conferences and on the Internet.
We've collected 11 of the most unusual allergy stories.
Imagine being allergic to a substance that makes up about 70 percent of the earth and almost as much of our bodies. But for some, a rare allergy to water is harsh reality.
Michaela Dutton, 21, has aquagenic urticaria, which causes her to get hives when her skin comes in contact with water. While physical urticarias are not uncommon -- people can develop hives within minutes in response to ordinary stimuli including heat, cold and pressure -- sensitivity to water is far less common.
Dutton said she broke out in a red rash and white blisters after she took a bath about a week after her son was born three years ago. Although she ignored the reactions at first, her symptoms worsened and she went to see a doctor and a dermatologist who told her she had a water allergy.
"It's horrible," Dutton said. "I couldn't believe it at first," Dutton said.
"Water induced urticaria is very unusual -- there are not many cases ever reported," said Dr. Thomas Casale, chief of allergy and immunology at Creighton University and executive vice president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "The mechanism has not really been defined."
It is certain, however, that people with aquagenic urticaria produce histamine from mast cells in the skin which causes redness, rashes and hives if they touch water. Dutton's sensitivity is such that she can only bathe for about 10 seconds each week and cannot drink water, juice, tea or coffee, opting for diet cola instead. She is also restricted from eating certain fruits and vegetables.
"It's not a problem with water in the body. It's when [water] is applied on top of the body," Casale said, citing additives as a possible cause for the allergic reaction seen on the skin.
Dutton, who lives in Walsall in the UK, also must be careful when holding her 3-year-old son. Her allergy was triggered after his birth and even his tears can cause hives.
"He doesn't really understand," Dutton said. "If he falls asleep I have to watch he doesn't dribble on me."
Physical urticarias tend to occur in individuals starting in their 20s and 30s but it is impossible to predict how long the condition will last.