Swimming and summer just seem to go together, but some swimmers develop chlorine sensitivity.
Chlorine is a chemical added to pools and hot tubs to kill bacteria. Recommended chlorine levels keep water pH at an ideal 7.4. Lower levels of chlorine may not be enough to keep bacteria at bay and higher levels can result in eye and skin irritation.
Some individuals, especially those that spend a lot of time in chlorinated water such as competitive swimmers, develop chlorine sensitivity. Studies have also shown that children and adolescents with allergic sensitivities are more likely to develop nasal allergies and asthma if they swim frequently in chlorinated pools.
Individuals with chlorine sensitivity can experience skin redness, tenderness or itching. In some cases, rash, crusting or hives develop.
Chlorine sensitivity may cause nasal congestion, runny nose or sneezing in children with allergic rhinitis or atopy. In those with asthma, it may trigger asthma symptoms. True allergy to chlorine is rare, but if serious respiratory symptoms develop – seek immediate medical care.
Dermatologists diagnose chlorine sensitivity through a detailed history and physical examination of the affected area(s). Skin tests may be done to confirm diagnosis.
Treatment of chlorine sensitivity includes avoiding or reducing exposure to the chemical. If you do swim in chlorinated water,shower and shampoo with warm water and apply a moisturizing lotion immediately after swimming. Avoid using chlorine bleach for laundry or household chores.
In some cases, your dermatologist may prescribe steroid cream or antihistamines for symptom relief.