Chlorine Allergy: Causes, Symptoms, & Management

🤝 Our content is written by humans, not AI robots. Learn More

Chlorine is a commonly used chemical, from sanitizing the pool to being added to our water supply to prevent the spread of diseases. For some individuals, chlorine can trigger a reaction. After exposure to the chemical chlorine, a rash can occur.

Even though rashes can occur after exposure, this does not mean they are allergic. It’s not possible to be allergic to chlorine, however some people can be more sensitive to it compared to others.

In this blog article, we will discuss reactions to chlorine, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, and management strategies. So, let’s delve into this topic to gain insights into chlorine rashes.

📌 Key Takeaways

  • You can’t be allergic to chlorine, but you can be sensitive to it.
  • Exposure to chlorine can result in various symptoms, including contact dermatitis or respiratory tract irritation.
  • You can prevent contact dermatitis from chlorine, the biggest thing is making sure you shower before and after contact with swimming pools or hot tubs.

📥 Understanding Chlorine

Chlorine is a chemical element that is largely recognized for its ability to disinfect and is commonly used in water treatment, swimming pools or hot tubs, and cleaning products. To the naked eye it is a greenish-yellow gas and has a very pungent odor.

Its effectiveness in killing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens such as parasites make it a practical choice for maintaining hygiene. Chlorine works by oxidizing and destroying the cell walls of microorganisms, therefore preventing the spread of disease.

Outside of its disinfectant properties, it is also used in the production of numerous chemicals, such as pesticides. This chemical is very versatile and its wide range of applications make it essential for use in a variety of industries.

It is important to note that at low levels chlorine is considered generally safe for most individuals. However, some people may be more sensitive to it.

Chlorine test on hot tub

👩‍⚕️ What is “Chlorine Allergy”?

As mentioned above, chlorine is a widely used chemical for disinfecting swimming pools and hot tubs, but it may also cause some individuals significant irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system. Some may develop what is called a “chlorine rash“.

When an individual comes into contact with chlorine, they can develop this skin inflammation which is an irritant dermatitis, not a true chlorine allergy. Like other irritants that cause contact dermatitis, chlorine exposure can lead to red, itchy, inflamed skin.

Others may experience discomfort in the eyes and signs of respiratory irritation. However, not everyone that swims in chlorinated swimming pools or hot tubs will develop a rash. Those who have repeated exposure are more likely to develop this skin condition.

🩺 Signs and Symptoms

Signs that you may have a chlorine sensitivity include respiratory tract issues and contact dermatitis.

Chlorine Rash

When it comes to a chlorine rash or skin irritation, typically your symptoms will appear after you go swimming or several days after repeated exposure to chlorine.

Everyone’s symptoms of a chlorine rash can vary. Most symptoms are similar to other rashes caused by contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of a chlorine rash can include any of the following:

  • Burning or itchy skin
  • Dry skin (typically made worse when repeatedly exposed to chlorine)
  • Sores and/or blisters
  • Skin redness
  • Itchy or scaly patches of skin
  • Skin that can crack after exposure to chlorine

Additionally, it is important to add that these symptoms may also be related to an unclean pool and is typically called swimmer’s itch or other bacteria infections.

Typically there are different preventative measures that you can take to ease symptoms. If you do not take these preventative measures and are sensitive to chlorine then your symptoms may worsen.

We discuss ways to manage symptoms in the next section.

Red and itchy symptoms of chlorine allergy

Respiratory Tract

Those with asthma or allergic rhinitis who already have sensitive airways may also develop respiratory symptoms such as the following:

  • Symptoms similar to other respiratory allergies (runny nose, itching, sneezing)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing

⚠️ Causes and Triggers

As previously mentioned, typically those with already sensitive skin or respiratory tracts may be more at risk to developing a reaction to chlorine.

Additionally, if you have repeated exposure to a chlorinated pool this will increase your risk of developing a reaction.

Separately, if you do not follow the recommendations set forth by the swimming pool, including showering before and after swimming this could potentially lead to

📉 Symptom Management

In terms of symptom management, there are things you can do to help treat or soothe your symptoms and also to prevent symptoms from occurring or getting worse.

Treatment

Symptoms for a chlorine rash can be treated with many over the counter products that are used for other rashes.

To treat chlorine rash you could use a hydrocortisone cream that helps to soothe itchy skin and reduce swelling or some sort of antihistamine cream to reduce itching and inflammation.

If you are an avid swimmer it may be also beneficial to purchase a body wash or lotion that is designed to to help with irritation from chlorine.

Applying cream on chlorine rash

Prevention

There are many steps you can take to help prevent a chlorine rash. Even if you aren’t very sensitive to chlorine, it may be helpful to follow these tips if you are in swimming pools or chlorinated water often. Frequent swimming can definitely make you more at risk for chlorine rash.

To prevent this, it is recommended to do the following:

  • Shower immediately before AND after
  • Remove your swimsuit right away and rinse it between use
  • If able, space out your workouts so your chlorine exposure is not as frequent. This allows your skin some time to rest.
  • Limit your time spent in chlorinate water
  • Avoid swimming in over chlorinated pools

If you do the above and are still struggling it may be recommended to contact the pool operator to make sure the pool you are using is properly maintained.

Additionally, you can consider open water swimming particularly if the weather is nice and you feel comfortable swimming in open water. You can also consider switching to a different swimming pool location.

📑 Conclusion

Chlorine, a commonly used chemical for disinfection purposes, holds a significant role in maintaining cleanliness in swimming pools, hot tubs, and water supplies.

While exposure to chlorine can lead to skin rashes, it is important to note that true chlorine allergy is not possible. Instead, individuals may experience sensitivity or irritant contact dermatitis when exposed to chlorine.

Symptoms may include itching, redness, dry skin, and respiratory irritation. It’s crucial to understand the distinction between chlorine allergy and irritant contact dermatitis to effectively manage and prevent symptoms.

Taking preventive measures, such as showering before and after swimming, rinsing swimwear, and limiting exposure to chlorinated water, can help mitigate the risk of developing a chlorine rash.

For symptom management, over-the-counter products like hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine creams can provide relief. By implementing these strategies and raising awareness about chlorine sensitivity, individuals can enjoy swimming and water-related activities with greater comfort and confidence.

❔ Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Be Allergic to Chlorine?

You can’t be allergic to chlorine, however some people can be more sensitive to chlorine than others. You may have what we call a “chlorine rash” or it may exacerbate your allergic rhinitis or asthma after exposure.

How Do You Treat Chlorine Sensitivity?

If your chlorine sensitivity shows up in the form of a skin rash you can manage your symptoms through various ways including an over the counter hydrocortisone or antihistamine cream and/or use a body wash that is designed to remove or protect against chlorine.

To prevent reactions from occurring it is recommended to shower before and after exposure to chlorinated pools or hot tubs, remove and then rinse your swimsuit after swimming, limit the amount of time you are in the pool or have exposure to chlorine and avoid swimming in hot tubs or pools that are over chlorinated.

What Does Chlorine Irritation Look Like?

Chlorine irritation or sensitivity can show up as a “chlorine rash” or it may exacerbate symptoms of allergic rhinitis or asthma. A chlorine rash will vary depending on how sensitive the person may be to chlorine but is generally itchy, red, or scaly patches of skin.

How Long Does an Allergic Reaction to Chlorine Last?

You can not have an allergic reaction to chlorine. However, you can develop irritation from chlorine including respiratory tract irritation similar to common allergies and/or contact dermatitis.

Symptoms vary from person to person and therefore how long they last also vary. However, if you take steps mentioned in the article above to reduce reaction to chlorine including showering before and after swimming this can immensely help.

Additionally, if you choose to use some over the counter products to soothe your symptoms this may also be helpful. One of the most common for contact dermatitis is hydrocortisone cream.

  • Roxanne Trotter
    MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Roxy, fueled by her love for food and wellness, tackles misinformation head-on. Her Master's in Human Nutrition and diverse experience (weight management, hospitals) equip her to translate complex health topics, especially those related to water quality. Through her own practice (Nutremedies LLC) and writing for Water Filter Guru, Roxy empowers readers with accurate, evidence-based information, helping them make informed choices for a healthier life, one sip at a time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top