Tessa Hansen-Smith can only shower twice a month. She can’t swim or stand in the rain. “I always remember that there is no cure,” says the 21-year-old who lives with this rare disease.
Living with a complicated illness isn’t easy. Tessa Hansen-Smith teaches us that lesson since the 21-year-old copes with a severe allergy that makes her intolerant to water. Yes, water.
Although many of us have heard the saying that “water is life”, for Tessa, it is a complete nightmare that she has learned to live with, little by little, and with a lot of patience. Just taking small sips of water, for example, causes cuts on her tongue.
She was born with aquagenic urticaria, a rare condition that fewer than 100 people in the world suffer from. An antigen present in the skin breaks down when it comes in contact with water and triggers a series of adverse reactions such as inflammation, pain and lesions such as burns.
Therefore, her list of reactions is quite long as is the list of things that are off limits for her. Tessa can’t shower more than twice a month, she can’t go swimming in a pool, and she can’t enjoy the rain. Crying causes her severe irritations as does her sweat and saliva.
“It’s a really difficult condition to have as I’m even allergic to my own tears, saliva and sweat,” the American college student tells the Mirror, who also faces problems with many foods because of this.
“I suffer with a lot of muscle fatigue and nausea too. The sickness is usually caused by me eating something with a lot of water in foods like some fruits and vegetables. Even drinking water can cause cuts on my tongue,” Tessa tells the British media outlet.
She was diagnosed when she was 10 years old, but the reality is that she was born with the condition. Her parents noticed a link between the rashes and bathing, but they always thought it could be the soaps or shampoos, never the water itself.