woman-swimming-1005229Ever get red, blotchy, itchy rash after swimming in a pool or hot tub? It’s called, “swimming pool rash” or “hot tub rash” and is very irritating. Chlorine or other chemicals dry out the skin and cause an eczema based rash.

Swimming and summer go together. But if you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool, you’re absorbing lots of chlorine through your skin and your skin may be suffering from it. Skin naturally absorbs water, along with everything in that water. If there are high levels of chlorine in the water, your skin can’t stop it from soaking in.

Chlorine is a caustic chemical used in industry and household cleaning products. It is also used to disinfect water in swimming pools and as a pesticide. Scientists consider chlorine one of the most toxic elements found in nature. According to the New York State Department of Health:

What happens to chlorine in the body?

When chlorine enters the body as a result of breathing, swallowing, or skin contact, it reacts with water to produce acids. The acids are corrosive and damage cells in the body on contact. What are the immediate health effects of chlorine exposure?

Most harmful chlorine exposures are the result of inhalation. Health effects typically begin within seconds to minutes. Following chlorine exposure, the most common symptoms are:

  • Airway irritation
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation

The severity of health effects depend upon the route of exposure, the dose and the duration of exposure to chlorine. Breathing high levels of chlorine causes fluid build-up in the lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema. The development of pulmonary edema may be delayed for several hours after exposure to chlorine. Contact with compressed liquid chlorine may cause frostbite of the skin and eyes.

According to Wikipedia:

Harmful Health effects of Chlorine

Chlorine is a toxic gas that irritates the respiratory system. Because it is heavier than air, it tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, which may react with flammable materials.[33]

Chlorine is detectable in concentrations of as low as 0.2 ppm. Coughing and vomiting may occur at 30 ppm and lung damage at 60 ppm. About 1000 ppm can be fatal after a few deep breaths of the gas.[3] Breathing lower concentrations can aggravate the respiratory system, and exposure to the gas can irritate the eyes.[34] The toxicity of chlorine comes from its oxidizing power. When chlorine is inhaled at concentrations above 30 ppm, it begins to react with water and cells, which change it into hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).

When used at specified levels for water disinfection, the reaction of chlorine with water is not a major concern for human health. However, other materials present in the water may generate disinfection by-products that can damage human health.[35][36]

It can also cause problems with the thyroid gland and very dry, irritated, itchy skin. Some of the effects might not be to chlorine but to chloramines. These are compounds that are formed when chlorine burns up dirt in the water or on your skin.

Chlorine gas is especially harmful to the respiratory system. In a swimming pool, most of the chlorine gas sit on top of the water – the very air swimmers breathe. This, in conjuction with the chlorine that gets absorbed through the skin, creates quite a load of chlorine for the body.

Chlorine is use more commonly in pools. Bromine is another type of bleach that is more commonly used in most hot tubs because it withstands heat better then chlorine. More people become allergic to brominde that to chlorine, although the reactions are very much the same.

How to Avoid the Harmful Effects of Chlorine or Bromine

Swim in non-chlorinated areas, or in low-chlorine pools, such as salt-water purified or other safer means of purification.

woman-showeringWashing off thoroughly after swimming helps, but doesn’t do anything about all the chlorine that has already been absorbed.

Using skin protection products only expose you to more chemicals as they are made of chemicals. Their effectiveness stems from bonding temporarily to the surface of the skin to act as a barrier preventing the chlorine from entering the skin but most are extremely harmful in their own right.

The Natural Approach to Reducing Chlorine Skin Absorption

Here are several suggestions you can do to protect yourself from absorbing chlorine when swimming:

  1. Protect Your Skin with Cel-Lite Magic Massage Oil – Use is as a body lotion and apply a thin layer all over the body. Only a small amount is needed, not a heavy “greasy” coating. And if you need to rinse off before entering the pool, don’t worry – a quick rinse won’t wash it off.

  2. Shower off after swimming with Lavender Bath and Shower Gel and Lavender Mint Daily Shampoo to gently remove contaminants, nourish and restore your skin and hair’s natural balance.

  3. Eliminate the toxins already absorbed into the body – Young Living’s ICP – Colon Cleanse Supplement and/or Balance Complete – absorb many times their weight in toxins.

  4. Diffuse with top quality essential oils – Getting a stuffy nose after swimming in a chlorinated pool is common and is called swimmer’s sinusitis. Its caused by getting chlorinated water into the sinuses and can be quite irritating. Doctors recommend drinking plenty of water to keep the mucus membranes well hydrated and thin enough to remain flexible. Drinking plenty of water also allows the sinuses to drain properly. Using a sinus spray containing chemicals can backfire as it can over-dry and irritate the delicate sinus membranes more deeply over time.

  5. Its far better to diffuse with therapeutic-grade essential oils such as the RC Essential Oil Blend which contains the soothing oils of three different eucalyptus, pine, lavender and more. A treatment that can be used any time of year for stuffy noses or sinuses.

  6. Protect your thyroid from harmful contaminants – Young Living’s Thyromin helps protect you from harmful contaminants, such as chlorine, as well as many others. Take one capsule at bedtime or upon rising before and after swimming days. Even better, take it every night to increase energy and balance the endocrine system (adults only).
  7. Use warm, not hot water and air dry your hair – or at least use cool air to dry it. Dryer air plus swimming in chlorine plus hot water showers can cause rashes.

If you suffer more serious effects from chlorine, you may be one of the few people allergic to it. In that case, see your doctor as soon as symptoms occur. Although sensitivity to chlorine is common, true allergies to chlorine are rare, but serious.

More commonly, people suffer dry, itchy skin and rashes, respiratory problems and dried out hair. Use the tips above to help your body deal naturally with the harmful effects of chlorine and prevent chlorine rash (swimming pool rash) and chlorine irritation.


How to Prevent Chlorine Rash (Swimming Pool Rash) and Irritation — 24 Comments

  1. Hello. I wanted to point out that chlorine is very difficult to simply shower off. The chlorine sticks to your hair and skin.

    To get rid of the chlorine, neutralize it with a vitamin C solution. For example, SwimSpray (www.SwimSpray.com) will get the chlorine off of you.

  2. Hey guys i went swimming like a week ago and the next day my skin was very dry and skin on my shoulders and face started peeling off!my face is now ok(back to normal) bt my shoulders not yet healed!what’s wrong and what should i do?

  3. Deogratius,

    That sounds intense! Is your skin pealing from a sunburn? Or maybe there was too much chlorine in the pool water? Chemical burns can result from extremely high chlorine levels in pool water.

    Another possibility could be that the water could have contained pseudomonas aeruginosa, a disease causing bacteria (if the disinfectants broke down).

    Usually these issues cause itchy rashes and sometimes blisters referred to as swimming pool rash. I suppose the rash can peel off if its bad enough or if the skin becomes infected.

    I couldn’t tell you why your skin is peeling off. If it’s serious or lasted more than 48 hours, maybe it’s time to see your doctor and find out for sure what’s going on.

    In the meantime, you could try LavaDerm Cooling Mist with lavender essential oil and Aloe to soothe and rejuvenate your skin – it’s usually used for sunburn.

    Another ointment I love which helps skin stressed from anything is Animal Scents Ointment. It contains both Melaleuca alternifolia and myrrh, plus essential oils that soothe and nourish. Don’t be turned off by the name, its wonderful on humans, too, not just animals.

  4. Thanx for the advice the aloe is somehow helping,the doctor said its a double reaction of sunburn+chlorine reaction but not that serious so the peeling off will stop soon

  5. Every time I get into our hot tub I come out with a rash all over my body but mainly on the top of my butt line and all over my legs and my arms even under my arms and it swells and goes red in some areas and others like fine pimples but terribly itchy that I end up scratching so bad I get blood blisters and it becomes inflamed! We use a normal hot tub chlorine block but some how it still affects me so now I just don’t get into the hot tub! Please help me!!!!!

  6. Lyn,

    It sounds like your body is reacting to chlorine in a big way. You might be one of the few that have a serious allergy to chlorine… or the chlorine levels in your hot tub may be very high.

    Of course, there is a chance that you may have pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) bacteria in the water. This bacterium grows in hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools due to the warm water and causes body rash and/or blisters. It can also look like chicken pox. The rash usually starts 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the PA bacteria, so if your rash starts right away, it could be something else.

    Another thing that sometimes happens is that the fiberglass fibers in the tub start to get into the water and work their way under the skin, causing rashes.

    I wouldn’t get into the hot tub until everything cleared up. Then I would definitely cover every inch of my skin with Cel-Lite Magic Massage Oil before getting in the tub. Immediately after getting out of the hot tub, I would take a bath with baking soda or epsom salts, or at least rub baking soda all over and then shower off.

    After drying off, I would use Purification essential oil on the skin. If I needed something more soothing, lavender would be good.

    If you still have a problem after that, I would go to the doctor and get it checked out. It could be a serious allergy.

  7. Am fair in complexion..and each time i go to the pool i become so dark that i feel like not goin to the pool again..how can i get my true complexion back immediately and to prevent further reoccurence.

  8. Kelly,

    If you go out into the sun for any length of time, it will change your skin color. Specialized cells in your skin called melanocytes are responsible for producing melanin. When you expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, the melanocytes produce more melanin, which darkens your skin. The darkened effect lasts a while. So there is no way to get your paler skin back immediately. You have to wait until the suntan fades.

    People with very fair skin need to be careful about how much sun they get as too much sun at once can be dangerous to fair skin. Exposure should be increased gradually. It’s best to expose the skin for short periods of time at first, and build up slowly. Wearing a SPF 20 to 30 sunscreen helps you tan slower and prevent sunburn, however, suncreens are full of toxic chemicals.

    LavaDerm™ Cooling Mist is specially formulated with lavender essential oil and aloe vera – two of nature’s most soothing, rejuvenating and healing substances. It soothes, protects and brings powerful relief to stressed and burned skin with its blend of gentle, skin-soothing ingredients.

    You didn’t say you had a sunburn, but if you do, Dr. Alex Schouss, a prominent mineral researcher, has discovered that burns are painful because certain trace minerals are depleted from the skin and surrounding tissue. If the trace minerals are replenished to the affected area, then the pain will subside almost immediately.

    Many people with sunburns have received instant pain relief by applying Mineral Essence – a balanced, full-spectrum ionic mineral complex enhanced with essential oils, to the sunburn.

  9. hi yesterday my girl she is 10 years old ..she has a problem afer the sun explosure skin paches all over the face the next day she has too much irritatoin on the face and ichy and too much red skin .. dr gave her cream for irritaion for 15 days …tooday she have a swimming class ..can she can go to swimming class or not …clorin is ok for herskin or not ??????

  10. Noreen,

    These are really questions you need to be asking your doctor. My guess is that if she got the irritation from either the sun or the bleach in the water, she needs to recover from that before getting more exposure. But I’m not your doctor and maybe you should give him a quick call.

  11. Hi, I am on vacation in FL and have never been allergic to anything in my life. But after going into a pool a couple of days ago, hours later I noticed I had red spots like hives on my thigh, I thought something bit me, but the next day it got worse, I kept applying cortizone and taking Benedryl, and after coming back from a water park, the hives were all over me, it is very itchy and uncomfortable, I decided not to go to any pool for the rest of my vacation ( which it sucks) but I would like to know how long this rash will last and what should I do to make it better.


  12. Sonia,

    Sorry to hear about your distress. You could try taking a bath in a cup or two of baking soda and soaking for 20-30 minutes. It wouldn’t hurt to add about 20 drops quality peppermint essential oil an a tablespoon or so of salt. Or you could make a thin paste of baking soda and apply it on the skin for a while, then rinse off. A bath in Epsom salt may be an alternative. Both of them tend to cool down hot itchy skin.

    Lavender oil is also very soothing to skin, however, it must be real lavender, not the common substitute, lavandin, or it will irritate your skin further. See this article: The Truth About Lavender Oil

    If it doesn’t go away after a few days, I would go see a doctor. You never know if its a chlorine reaction or something else entirely. There are all kinds of infections floating around in pool water that people can pick up.

    Hives usually only last a couple of days, but sometimes they can go on for a few weeks. The thing to watch for is how long each welt lasts. Each individual welt should last no more than 24 hours if it’s hives. If it lasts longer, it could be an infection, and a visit to the doctor is in order.

  13. Thank you very much for your response, I still have the rash/hives. The itchiness comes and goes, but it is frustrating. I am away from home going back tomorrow, but will definately call my doctor on Monday because it doesnt seem to go away 🙁

    Thanks for the tips!

  14. Planing to join Swimming class.But a bit worried for my skin getting dark.Wat precaution should I take?

  15. If you are irritated by chlorine absorbed/stuck to your hair and skin after swimming, I suggest that you take a look at a relatively new product that is now available – SwimSpray. It is an all-natural combination of vitamin C and water and has gotten some good reviewers from recreational and competitive swimmers alike. Invented by a former Princeton University swimmer who also has a PhD in Chemistry, SwimSpray neutralizes the chlorine residue that remains stuck to your hair and skin despite showering with soap and shampoo. By eliminating the chlorine/bleach stuck to your hair and skin, you’ll find that your hair and skin health is better maintained, and you no longer smell like chlorine.

  16. My family and my best friends family have been swimming in two different pools this last two weeks. Her son broke out in blisters all over his hands and one spot on his face. The spots were darkened skin first. Now today I have two spots on my hands and a spot on my stomach. My best friends hands have smaller darkened spots of skin, that someone told her was sunspots but it is awfully dark and look like what is on my stomach any idea of what is going on? Or how to treat these areas of skin and blisters? Her suns hands are really pink areas from the blisters and look as if they will scar.

  17. Christina,

    It sounds awful! Chlorine levels can be very high in pools and that can cause bad reactions. Also, you never know what infections and pathogens other swimmers bring into the pool that then grow and spread in the water.

    As I mentioned to Sonia above, bathing in baking soda or even Epsom salts can help soothe the skin. Applying quality lavender oil also helps soothe the skin. It it is an infectious type of thing, then essential oils blends like Thieves and Purification might help.

    But if these spots get worse, a trip to the doctor is in order, and maybe avoiding pools, as well. I now only swim in a natural lake to avoid these kinds of reactions.

  18. My son has been in chlorine water all summer long with no rash. Then yesterday we went to Hurricane Harbor and every time we got on a ride or in the water he came out with a red rash all over his body i thought it was the sunblock but i washed it off and the rash happened again.

  19. Trisha,

    It could be that he exceeded his tolerance level with chlorine, or that he reacted to that particular sunblock. Either way, the rash is going to take its course. Washing it off is necessary, but that won’t stop the rash once it has broken out.

    Try soaking in in baking soda or Epsom salts until it gets better.

  20. my girlfriend is a swimming teacher and the swimming school she works at the chlorine is way to high and the owner does not want to fix it.my girlfriend comes home and her arms and legs are burnt from the chlorine and leaves lumps and a rash and seems to be getting worse, i would just like to know the effects and dangers of what can happen if it carries on and they teach little kids how to swim in this water so id just like to know the dangers so i can show the owner she has to fix the pool.

    thanks can email me direct at bribeiro [at] berzacks.co.za and please tell me thanks

  21. Blake,

    There are many studies and lots of documentation about the dangers of chlorine.

    Dr. Mercola has written about this, especially in regards to people who work in and around pools: Avoid Swimming Pools if You Have Allergies or Asthma

    Here is a scientific article covering nearly every aspect of swimming in chlorinated pools: Chlorine Toxicity: A Matter That Should Be Of Concern To All Swimmers, Coaches, And Parents

    There is an article by Dr Weill here.

    Here’s a video on DailyMotion.com The Secret Danger of Swimming Pools

    A couple more:

    The Danger of Swimming in Chlorinated Pools

    Chlorine Dangers!

  22. Hello
    Anytime I come out from the pool,I noticed I get very dark,and am not happy about it,so I don’t know if there is any cream I can use before entering the pool that will protect my skin,because I swim 2 times a week,its a swimming class.

  23. The Cel-Lite Magic Massage Oil works pretty well. You don’t need to use much, just a thin layer all over the body. Reapply if needed half-way through your swim – a quick swim won’t wash it off.

    Natural coconut oil provides protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and acts as a mild sunblock. It possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.

Leave a Reply