You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about celebrities who don’t bathe — Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Jake Gyllenhaal, Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp to name a few. They’re sniffed at by bathers like Jason Momoa, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Jodie Turner-Smith, Nick Jonas, John Cena, Rihanna and (thankfully) many others. The non-bathers can’t be shamed by their bathing celebrity counterparts, but maybe they’ll shut up and slink away when they hear about one poor woman who is so allergic to water, she can’t bathe or even cry. And sadly, she’s rare but not alone.
“When you’re allergic to water, having a wash is really difficult.”
Meet Niah Selway, a 23-year-old Hastings, England, woman who recently revealed to her TikTok followers in a video that quickly went viral, how she is plunged into unspeakable pain when she attempts to plunge into a bath, get rinsed in a shower or even walk in the rain. Even worse, she itches painfully when she sweats, cries or urinates. Selway has been diagnosed with ‘aquagenic pruritus’ or aquagenic itching, a condition she was born with that became worse in her teens and unbearable today. The allergy causes intense itching when body parts get wet, especially legs, arms, chest, back, and abdomen. Other parts are less affected, and palms and foot soles not at all. Selway has revealed in recent interviews that hers doesn’t happen immediately, but within five minutes her skin feels on fire.
“It’s difficult because I try not to deprive myself of the right to cry. Any surface that a tear comes in contact with turns red. It’s been five or 10 minutes after I felt my body start to burn … I feel like my blood is boiling.”
Selway has had to stop working due to the condition, which causes her to writhe in pain for hours and leaves her exhausted. A mix of antihistamines, painkillers and moisturizing creams eases her symptoms for a time, but the cause of aquagenic pruritus is unknown — it is possibly related to histamine in cells and some drugs may cause it – and there is no known cure. Selway has been doing interviews to raise money ($340,000) on GoFundMe for an experimental treatment in Germany.
If it’s any help, Niah Selway is not alone. New Zealander Roger Hayward revealed recently to the New Zealand Herald that he’s suffered from aquagenic pruritus since he was 18 (he’s 54) and has learned to adapt. He’s found that by not showering for six or seven months, his body seems to build up a tolerance and he can bathe and swim a few times before the condition becomes unbearable again. Otherwise, he avoids the same water exposures as Niah Selway and says he’s even affected by humidity.
There are fewer than 100 cases of aquagenic pruritus reported in the medical literature. Perhaps Niah Selway and Roger Hayward can form a support group.
In the meantime, non-bathing celebrities – please just STFU!