Am I Allergic to Chlorine?

Myth: “I am allergic to chlorine.”

We’ll debunk that myth right here, right now. You can’t be allergic to chlorine. That being said, submerging your body into a pool of chlorine has the potential to come with some side effects. Among those are chlorine sensitivity and chlorine rash. What’s the difference? Read on to find out!

Chlorine Sensitivity

Less severe than a rash, ​chlorine sensitivity​ is exactly what it sounds like. It means your body is sensitive to the chemical but is still able to tolerate it. A sensitivity to chlorine would typically manifest itself in one (or more) of three ways: skin issues, respiratory issues, or nasal symptoms.

If you have naturally sensitive skin, or if you have eczema, your skin may become itchy or break out into hives. If this is the case, minimize the amount of time you spend in the pool in one setting. It is suggested that you space it out and take breaks in between your dips into the pool.

Nasal symptoms can range anywhere from an itchy nose to sneezes. In the case of chlorine sensitivity, you can treat a nasal response as you would treat any typical allergy. Take precautions to ensure you are not ingesting chlorine. If you are suffering from repeated nasal symptoms, you may consider wearing a nose clip.

If you find yourself with shortness of breath, repeated coughs, or chest pains after swimming, you may have a respiratory response to the chlorine. There’s a chance that your respiratory issues may be more serious than a sensitivity to chlorine, such as ​lifeguard lung​. In any case where you are experiencing prolonged, repetitive respiratory symptoms, you should see a doctor or an allergist.

Chlorine Rash

Sometimes, there is a degree of overlap between ​chlorine rash​ and chlorine sensitivity​—​specifically when it pertains to sensitive skin. What you need to know about chlorine rash is that it is typically repetitive and severe, and it usually stems from repeated exposure to chlorine.

Chlorine sensitivity, on the other hand, can happen after as little as 1-2 hours in the pool. Most people who complain of chlorine rash are those who spend hours upon hours in a pool setting. Symptoms are: itchy and/or red, irritated skin, small bumps, scaling of the skin, and swollen skin that is tender to the touch.

In most cases, chlorine rash can be treated with a simple OTC medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations. Usually, it is recommended to take a corticosteroid cream. If you experience hives as a lifeguard or regular swimmer, take Benadryl to help the inflammation subside.

There you have it. Chlorine allergy doesn’t exist, so your pool days aren’t threatened in the slightest. Although anyone is at risk for chlorine sensitivity or chlorine rash, both conditions are treatable.

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