College student Caitlin McComish loves to play soccer. The only problem is, she’s severely “allergic” to her own sweat.
According to a report by ABC News this week, McComish, a student at the University of Toledo and a member of the school’s women’s soccer team, almost died last year after going into anaphylactic shock during a run. “I had a really upset stomach, tingly palms and the bottoms of my feet,” she said of the frightening experience. “I was really, really itchy. It hit me like uncomfortable heat waves. Then I could feel the swelling in my throat, and my tongue got tingly and thicker.”
Fortunately, the young woman was able to call for help and survived the sudden attack; but her ordeal had really only just begun.
In the following months, McComish reportedly went into shock a staggering 17 times.
McComish, it turns out, has severe cholinergic urticaria, a hives disorder triggered by exposure to heat and sweat. The condition is relatively common but its symptoms are typically mild. A 1994 study into the prevalence of cholinergic urticaria found that about 11 percent of young adults ages 15-35 exhibited symptoms of the disorder, but that “reactions were mostly mild and restricted to fleeting, pinpoint-size wheals.”
Avoiding triggers is one recommended treatment option for people who suffer from cholinergic urticaria, but for an avid sportswoman like McComish, that would’ve been a tall order.
Luckily, she has reportedly shown a “dramatic response” to Xolair, a drug typically used for asthma, and is now back on the soccer field, per ABC.
In this Instagram photo, Caitlin McComish (center) poses with two friends.
A few years ago, another young woman named Ashleigh Morris made headlines for a dangerous hypersensitivity to not just sweat, but water in general. In a 2012 piece for Australian magazine That’s Life, Morris described her battle with aquagenic urticaria, a rare hives disorder triggered by exposure to water of any temperature. Morris, then 23, said that showering briefly was a torturous experience and that even crying was painful.
Still, like Caitlin McComish, Morris has learned to live with her condition. Now a mom, she says she’s found ways to avoid breaking out in hives all the time — like sleeping with a sheet between her and her husband so his sweat won’t touch her skin, and avoiding sports and other activities that cause her to perspire.
“I know that there probably won’t ever be a cure for my condition. That’s something I can live with,” she wrote in That’s Life. “I’d much rather doctors focused their energy on finding cures for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. My family make everything bearable. I’d jump in the ocean for them if I had to.”