A MUM who became "allergic" to water after giving birth says she can't shower without breaking out into painful hives and avoids leaving the house when its raining.
Cherelle Farrugia, from Cardiff, Wales, has a rare condition called aquagenic urticaria, which makes simple day-to-day life incredibly difficult.
The 26-year-old noticed her skin would become red and painful after having a bath following the birth of her daughter, Willow, 18 months ago.
Cherelle said: “Up until I had my daughter, I had no issues with water at all.
"I had three baths a day and literally the first bath after I had her I broke out into this awful rash."
The weather used to make me feel really anxious. For about two months, even if it was just drizzling, I wouldn’t leave the house
Describing her symptoms, she said: “Physically it’s quite painful and its very itchy, it’s kind of like a prickly feeling and then it’s a full-blown rash.
“I’m mostly affected just above my belly button, so my legs are rarely affected, it’s mostly my stomach, shoulders, back and my neck.
“Occasionally I get it on my face if I’m having a particularly nasty reaction.”
For the first few months after giving birth, Cherelle would avoid leaving the house, especially if it was raining, and eventually became depressed.
She said: “The weather used to make me feel really anxious. For about two months, even if it was just drizzling, I wouldn’t leave the house.
“I had panic attacks because I was so overwhelmed.
“I spent a lot of time indoors which really didn’t help with my depression.”
Physically it’s quite painful and its very itchy, it’s kind of like a prickly feeling and then it’s a full-blown rash
Doctors suggested she use different soaps or change her towel and she even tried chemically pure osmosis water on her skin, but she kept breaking out in a rash.
It wasn’t until the new mother went to a private allergist that she was finally diagnosed with the water allergy.
Cherelle said: “I was getting really upset and I was thinking nobody is going to take me seriously.
“When I told the private allergist and he told me you have aquagenic urticaria I was like thank god there’s somebody who finally understands.”
Cherelle said she didn't know about the condition, which is incredibly rare with under 40 reported medical cases worldwide.
Not much is known about what causes aquagenic urticaria and there is no known cure.
The condition means activities most people take for granted like washing or going swimming with their children can become problematic for Cherelle.
She said: “If I did decide to go swimming with Willow it can potentially be very dangerous, it means I could go into shock.
“I’ve spoken to a number of doctors and they don’t know what could happen if I go swimming and for me that’s a really scary thing not knowing.
“I usually shower in the morning because I’ve got it done so I can kind of have my breakfast then and distract myself while the reactions are happening.
“I think a lot of people who do have long showers are sort of there enjoying the water so for me I don’t have that time I just have to clean very fast.”
Cherelle has a strong support network of family and friends who help with water related activities.
One core member of her friendship group is Lucy Gilmore who spends most days with the mother and daughter duo.
Lucy, 27, said: “Cherelle is my best friend and of course I help out when I can. That’s just what you do for your friends.”
Through her fantastic group of friends and family Cherelle now lives as normal a life as possible.
She is using the experience of living with this rare condition and health anxiety to write a book and is training to become a counsellor.
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