I Have Itchy Skin After Swimming In Chlorinated Pool - Why?
If you have itchy skin after swimming in a chlorinated pool, there could be a few different reasons behind it. Typically, pools that are correctly maintained shouldn’t cause itchy skin, but there are unique cases where this can occur.
Read on to learn more about the causes of itchy skin after swimming, how to relieve skin itching, and how you can work to prevent this itching in the future.
Causes Of Itchy Skin After Swimming
Chlorine rash is a type of contact dermatitis that occurs after exposure to swimming in chlorinated pools. Unlike other types of rashes, a chlorine rash is not an allergic reaction, and is instead the result of skin irritation.
Swimming in pools with chlorine can cause drying of the skin by contributing to the loss of natural oils and sebum (they will be oxidised by chlorine). This effect is strengthened among swimmers who have pre-existing skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Skin affected by chlorine rash may appear red, swollen, tender, or itchy. A patterned rash may form that resembles dots or splotches, and symptoms may also include skin drying, scaling, or peeling.
Although these symptoms can be concerning, they will decrease in severity as time passes after you have left the water.
Imbalanced Water Chemistry
If you are not prone to chlorine rash and have never experienced it despite years of swimming, you may be swimming in a pool with imbalanced water chemistry.
Certain water conditions, such as a buildup of chloramines, low pH levels, or high calcium hardness can also cause you to be itchy after swimming in a pool.
How To Relieve Skin Itching
Rinse Exposed Skin
If you have not done so already, rinse all skin that was exposed to the pool’s water. It is recommended that you avoid using harsh soaps or overly hot water for this, as these can cause further irritation to your skin barrier.
If your skin is inflamed and feels warm to the touch similar to a sunburn, showering in cooler water can provide relief and reduce swelling.
Medicated Skin Treatments
If you are having a severe reaction you may want to consider a medicated skin treatment.
Most over-the-counter medications include topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone cream, and topical antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, commonly known by the brand name Benadryl.
These medicated ointments can relieve symptoms of your rash very quickly as the active ingredients are absorbed through your skin. If you have especially strong itchiness, we recommend using a medicated cream for your own comfort before exploring further treatment options.
Unmedicated Treatment Options
Certain lotions are especially helpful when working to treat contact dermatitis.
The best lotions for this purpose contain soothing components known as emollients and are typically fragrance-free to prevent further irritation. Many emollient lotions contain oats, which are good for soothing irritated skin.
If you are having a hard time choosing a lotion for this purpose, we recommend looking for lotions that are suited to those with eczema. These lotions are typically high in emollients and moisturising factors while also being free of other irritants.
How To Prevent Itching
Fix Your Pool’s Chemistry
Use a test kit to check your pool’s pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness. These levels should ideally fall between 7.2 - 7.6, 80 - 120ppm, and 200 - 400ppm respectively. Take appropriate steps to adjust these levels if they are imbalanced.
If you do not notice chemical imbalances when you perform testing, you may have a buildup of chloramines. Chloramines typically cause a strong chlorine odour to emanate from the pool that many confuse as a symptom of over chlorination.
For those who like to swim often or are otherwise more prone to the skin drying associated with chlorine, you may want to invest in a pre-swim lotion. These lotions are widely available online and work to prevent moisture loss from the skin when swimming, decreasing the amount of irritation that you will develop.
A chemical engineer by trade, Louis is committed to debunking myths in the pool industry by explaining the underlying chemistry and making it accessible to all.