Can you think of anything more refreshing than a dip in a cold pool on a hot summer day? Whether you’re just getting your feet wet or hopping in, it’s a wonderful way to spend your time. But maybe you’ve gotten out of the pool and noticed little red bumps or irritations forming on your skin. Is that something to be worried about, and does it mean you’re allergic to pool water? It turns out you may be dealing with a chlorine rash — and it’s usually relatively harmless!
What is a chlorine rash?
A chlorine rash is just what it sounds like: It’s when exposure to chlorine causes a rash-like irritation on the skin’s surface. It’s often caused by your immune system having a reaction in which it believes the chlorine is a dangerous “invader” coming to harm your body. In turn, it sends inflammatory signals to the area, causing it to swell. And because chlorine is naturally drying, it may also further dehydrate your skin in the process.
The good news, however, is that a chlorine rash isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re allergic to pool water and therefore need to steer clear of pools. You may just have a mild sensitivity, or there could be something else in that particular pool that mixed with the chlorine and caused the irritation.
What are the symptoms?
Chlorine rashes are generally pretty straightforward in appearance: They usually look like tiny red bumps or larger red irritations on the surface of the skin. More serious side effects may include dryness, scaliness, or swollen skin. Additionally, people dealing with chlorine sensitivity may have redder eyes after swimming and trouble breathing if they already have a history of respiratory problems.
How can you treat chlorine rash?
Luckily, most chlorine rashes and similar reactions are go away within a few days, especially if they’re treated quickly. You’ll just want to make sure you rinse the affected area thoroughly shortly after exiting the pool. Try not to use any scented lotions or perfumes in the rash area afterwards, as these can exacerbate the issue and lengthen your recovery time.
If your rash doesn’t start calming down within a few hours of leaving the pool or doesn’t begin to disappear within a day or two, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) recommends seeing a doctor to decide on a course of treatment. In some cases, you may be prescribed a prescription-strength corticosteroid cream. If you notice that you’re breaking out in hives, you may also want to try an antihistamine. Just be sure to speak to a medical professional no matter what you end up taking!