Itchy Rashes: Could Chlorine be the Culprit?

Itchy Rashes: Could Chlorine be the Culprit?

May 29, 2019

Chlorine is an element used by pool owners to disinfect water, making it safer to swim in to or get in a hot tub. While it has a lot of benefits, frequent exposure to chlorine could have negative effects. The chlorine in swimming pools can cause a rash to some people, which can sometimes be confused with swimmer’s itch or a heat rash. it can also significantly irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

What is a chlorine rash?

Chlorine rashes appear after a person gets exposed to the chemical. It is not possible to be allergic to chlorine, but one person’s skin can be a bit more sensitive to it than others. Also note that not everyone who swims in a chlorinated pool or tub will develop a rash. Chlorine rashes occur after repeated exposure to the chemical. Symptoms may be visible soon after swimming or several days after repeated exposure. If you notice your skin getting dry or chapped, itchy, red, and swollen with scaly red patches, then it’s positive you have a chlorine rash. Other symptoms include itching, burning or stinging skin, which could also crack and bleed after repeated contact with the chemical.

What else could it be?

Chlorine is not always the culprit whenever a rash appears on your skin after swimming. A person may instead have what we call swimmer’s itch or in medical terms, cercarial dermatitis. Swimmer’s itch is caused not by chlorine, but by a parasite that is released by infected snails into bodies of water. You could actually get swimmer’s itch if you’ve been swimming in water that has not been chlorinated.

This is easily mistaken for chlorine rash because the symptoms are similar. However, swimmer’s itch causes a rash that resembles small red or purple pimples. Chlorine rash occurs days after repeated exposure to chlorine, while swimmer’s itch develops soon after exposure to the parasite.

Chlorine rash can also be confused with heat rash. Heat rash happens when a person swims in a very warm body of water. It also causes itchy prickly bumps on the skin.

Getting rid of it

Fortunately, there are ways to treat chlorine rash without having to avoid swimming entirely. Chlorine rashes can be treated with over-the-counter corticosteroid creams. If you experience hives, you can apply diphenhydramine cream or Benadryl, or use body washes or unscented lotions that remove chlorine and soothe the skin. The key is to remove chlorine entirely. You can follow these steps to help prevent a chlorine rash.

  • Shower immediately before and after swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • Remove and rinse your swimwear right away and change into comfortable, loose, dry clothes, like cotton shirts
  • Take breaks to minimize your skin’s exposure to chlorine
  • Limit your swim time
  • Refrain from dipping into heavily chlorinated pools or hot tubs

Most of the time, this type of skin rash does not require a doctor’s care. However, severe reactions require immediate medical attention, especially if the rash is not responding to over-the-counter treatments.

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