Allergic Reactions to Chlorine at Swimming Pools

Chlorine allergies can be troublesome, but there may be steps you can take to alleviate them.

Chlorine allergies can be troublesome, but there may be steps you can take to alleviate them.

If you get bloodshot red eyes, itchy skin or start wheezing when you're in the pool, you might have a chlorine sensitivity. Technically, you may not actually be allergic to the pool, but your symptoms will sure feel like it. In some cases, the chlorinated water is either exacerbating an existing condition or you are experiencing sensitivity to the pool water. A pool with an incorrect balance of chemicals is more likely to cause these situations.

Skin Irritations

If your skin is sensitive to chlorinated water, your symptoms may include red skin, hives or other types of rashes. One common cause is irritant dermatitis, which means you are hypersensitive to the irritants in a pool. Another possibility is that the chlorine is drying your skin and irritating a skin condition. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are certainly troublesome. You might be able to alleviate the symptoms by washing your skin with clean water, applying moisturizer or taking an antihistamine. However, it's best to visit an allergist or dermatologist who can help identify the source of the problem. A doctor might prescribe a corticosteroid cream to help with the reaction.

Respiratory Complications

Chlorine can irritate the respiratory tract and and increase the risk that a swimmer will develop asthma or that pre-existing asthma will worsen. Symptoms may include coughing when exercising or laughing, wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, sneezing or a stuffy nose. If you are having breathing issues, you should see a doctor right away. An allergist can test for chlorine sensitivity and might prescribe a nasal steroid spray to help alleviate symptoms.

Alleviating Symptoms

If your symptoms are irritating and not serious, there are a few steps you can take to help alleviate your reaction. Swimming in outdoor pools or indoor pools with high ceilings allows more fresh air to circulate, lessening the amount of chlorinated air that you breathe in. You might also ask to see the pool's pH balance. A balance below 7.2 or above 7.8 can cause skin and eye irritations. When you're swimming, take frequent breaks. And always shower before entering the pool. Residue from perfume, makeup and other products can mix with chlorinated water and make reactions worse. You might also try using a snorkel or wearing a mask or goggles to lessen exposure to your eyes and nasal passages.

Saltwater Pools

If a traditional chlorinated pool is a problem, swimming in a saltwater pool instead might help. Saltwater pools use chlorine but in lesser quantities than regular chlorine pools. In traditional pools, chlorine is added manually by pouring it in or by adding a tablet. A saltwater pool, in contrast, is a closed system that uses a generator to create chlorine from salt and water. This results in swimmers' experiencing less nasal reactions, asthma and eye irritations. In addition, the harsh smell of a traditional pool is gone.

 

About the Author

With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

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