What Pool Lovers Need to Know about Chlorine Rash

Chlorine rash is a common skin complaint for those that spend a lot of their time in the pool.  Chlorine is a dermatological irritant.  At low levels, it usually does not cause too much a problem, but in larger concentrations, it can cause what is called a chlorine rash.

About Chlorine

As you probably already know, chlorine is a chemical used to kill harmful organisms that would otherwise thrive in pools.  Without chlorine, these organisms would have their own harmful effects on the skin and otherwise compromise the health of swimmers.

What is “chlorine rash”?

Chlorine rash is a type of chemical dermatitis.  In other words, it is a skin disorder caused by exposure to a chemical irritant.  Chlorine rash is also known as “swimmer’s itch” and “hot tub rash.”

You should not confuse a chlorine rash with other water related rashes caused by contact with bacteria.  In fact, these rashes are because of ineffective chlorine use.

A chlorine rash occurs when chlorine dries out the skin, making it itchy and more susceptible to ruptures and infections.  If you are already prone to other skin conditions such as eczema, chlorine can exacerbate the situation, increasing your pain and discomfort. 

How to treat a chlorine rash

The easiest way to avoid a chlorine rash is simply to avoid immersing yourself in water that has had a chlorine treatment until your body recovers.  Of course, this can really put a crimp in your summer plans or keep you from training for that swim competition.  For those who simply can’t stay away from the pool, you may have to try other means of protecting yourself.  

If you are one of those swimming fanatics who simply must have your daily laps in the pool or else the whole day is just ruined, you might try lathering yourself up with certain types of lotions.  You apply the protective layer to your skin just before taking your plunge and it will limit the amount of chlorine that gets to your skin.  Then you are free to practice your butterfly stroke to your heart’s content.

Another tip is to take a shower just after you get out of the pool.  For obvious reasons, the longer you keep chlorine on your body, the longer it will have time to react with your skin.  A shower, especially with warm water, will help wash the chlorine off and break down the effects it has on your skin.  It will also keep your hair from getting that washed out look that almost makes blonde hair look green.

Coverage also helps a lot.  I know that some people don’t like the look, but a full body suit will insulate you from the chorine in the water and leave only your hands and feet exposed.  You can also buy special swimming shoes and surfer’s gloves so that even these areas are covered up.  Most people hesitate to do this just because of social reasons.  If, however, you are a determined competitive swimmer who needs to be in the water every day, this just might be your best bet to avoid those uncomfortable rashes.  You also might find that such a form-fitting suit might also shave off a few seconds from your lap time.

Finally, you can help reduce the effects of your pool rash with creams containing hydrocortisone.  You simply place a cooling compress on the locations with rash symptoms and other signs of dryness.  Then you apply the cream to these areas.  The cream will make your skin feel less irritated and return it to a more natural color while at the same time helping to restore your skin health.  Usually you will get back to full skin health in one to two weeks.