A woman has an allergy to water so rare even the smallest drop of liquid causes her skin to break out in hives and blisters – and it means she only showers twice a YEAR.
Maxine Jones is living a “prison sentence” thanks to the disorder known as aquagenic urticaria which took a year to diagnose.
Even if the single 50-year-old takes every precaution to stay dry in the rain, it is almost impossible to remove a sodden coat without touching a speck of water.
She requires a heavy dose of steroids to minimise her symptoms when she does shower and the rest of the time uses a special foam costing up to £60 a month.
Maxine must wear gloves when chopping fruit and vegetables to avoid any moisture touching her skin and can only drink water out of a bottle, being careful not to spill.
The former palliative nurse has even had to quit her job after her symptoms first appeared out of the blue eight years ago.
Maxine, from Ecclesfield near Sheffield, South Yorks., has tried numerous treatments, including chemotherapy and pills which made her violently ill.
She has now found a combination of tablets which help control the symptoms including ones that say on the label they are usually used to treat leprosy.
Maxine said: “If I touch water at all the pain is awful. It feels like I’ve broken every bone in my foot, and my body itches all over like I’ve been rolling in a bed of nettles.
“I can’t go out if there’s any chance it will rain, which means my neighbours hardly see me during winter. It sometimes feels like a prison sentence.
“It’s a miserable disease and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but you just have to learn to live with it.
“The tablets I take say on the bottle they are also used to treat leprosy.”
When she comes into contact with even the smallest drop of liquid, it causes her skin to break out in excruciating hives and blisters and makes her hands and feet to swell tremendously.
Every part of her body is affected, except for her eyes, nose and mouth.
This makes it hard not just to get out of the house given the British weather, but to complete even the most basic of household tasks like cooking and cleaning.
Doctors tested her for all manner of problems before dermatologists and it took more than a year before her condition was diagnosed.
Eventually experts managed to pinpoint what was causing the red wheals and swelling.
Although it is a very rare complaint, it does not seem that way to Maxine since so many of the people she meets in the dermatology department are similarly affected.
Her neighbours are fantastic, she says, always ringing or dropping by to check up on her if they haven’t seen her for a few days.
The ‘Aquagenic Urticaria – Water Allergy’ Facebook group, which has nearly 900 members, says the condition is not technically an allergy but a ‘hypersensitivity to the ions found in non-distilled water’.
It states that water causes hives to appear on sufferers’ skin within 15 minutes and to last for up to two hours, though Maxine says her symptoms can persist for days.
The British Association of Dermatologists describes the condition as ‘extremely rare’, stating it usually affects the upper part of the body.
Wheals usually only appear at or around the site of contact with water.
But there is still no known cure and relatively little is understood about what causes the condition – which Maxine says has been known to disappear as suddenly as it appeared.