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  Water and Health   Water Quality   Water Can Heal   Contaminants Facts   Air and Health

Can shower or bath water cause rashes?

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RashWater urticaria, or aquagenic urticaria, is a rare condition in which hives develop within 1 to 15 minutes after contact with water. The hives last for 10 to 120 minutes and do not seem to be caused by histamine release like the other physical hives. Most investigators believe that this condition is actually exquisite skin sensitivity to additives in the water such as chlorine.

How do you know if you or a loved on has it? Water urticaria is diagnosed by applying tap water and distilled water to the skin and observing the reaction. What is the treatment? Water urticaria is treated with a cream called capsaicin (Zostrix) that is applied to the irritated skin. This is the same treatment used for shingles. Antihistamines are of questionable benefit since histamine is not the causative factor in water urticaria. The condition is sometimes described as a “water allergy” which may not be accurate. Research seems to suggest that people with this condition are reacting to the substances in water such as chlorine and ions which are found in water that is not distilled. A doctor can diagnose urticaria by exposing a patient to regular and distilled water and noting the reactions. The distilled water should not elicit a reaction and once diagnosed the patient can focus on management of the condition. Some patients build tolerance and become less sensitive to water over time thus allowing them to engage in more activities. It may be a good idea to carry a medical alert card on those diagnosed with urticaria so in the event of an emergency health care providers can be alert to their water sensitivity.

If you do not have urticaria and are noticing rashes on your skin it may be from the chlorine in your shower. Tap water often contains at least as much if not more, chlorine than is recommended for use in swimming pools. More chlorine enters the body through inhalation while showering than through drinking tap water. Chemicals in showering water vaporize at a much faster rate than the actual water. This means the steam in a shower contains a higher concentration of chemicals than the water itself. If possible, try not to take such hot showers to reduce the amount of chemicals in the air. The best solution would be to get a shower filter to remove chlorine or a whole house filter to remove the chlorine at the home’s entry point.

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