Every time Jon got out of the pool after his weekly swimming class, his entire body would itch that night and even his eyelids would swell. His parents even thought about unsharpening him because there were times when his skin was “really bad, especially in the armpit area, behind the knees, on the elbows and inside the nose,” they remember. Paradoxically, he is now a swimming instructor at a sports club and has had no choice but to put into practice a series of ‘tricks’ to be able to cope with all these symptoms in the best possible way without having to give up one of his favorite sports.
What happens to Jon is that the chlorine used to disinfect the pool water triggers in his body – and that of many other people, especially children – a kind of allergic reaction that results in itching, dryness, redness of the eyes and even inflammation of the airways when you spend too much time in the water. It is what is popularly known as ‘chlorine allergy’ although, in reality, such an allergy does not exist. «Chlorine is not an allergen, but rather an irritant. That is, people are not allergic to chlorine. What they are is more or less sensitive to the irritation that this compound can cause when coming into contact with our body,” they specify in the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Pediatric Asthma (SEICAP).
Regardless of the sensitivity of each person, there are another series of factors that can increase the intensity of the symptoms. «From the amount of chlorine added to the water to eliminate the pathogens that live in it to the time spent in contact with the compound, which is why it is recommended to avoid long baths and shower both before and after leaving the water. the pool. The risk of skin and respiratory irritation also increases in the case of asthmatic children or children with allergic rhinitis,” the specialists agree.
Eczema and conjunctivitis
The main reaction is usually eczema (behind the knees, in front of the elbow, groin, armpits, folds of the neck and eyelids and in the case of women also under the chest) and the treatment is usually topical (moisturizing creams to restore skin) and orally (antihistamines for itching), while if you suffer from respiratory problems it is advisable to consult a specialist. Regarding conjunctivitis, experts advise using swimming goggles and washing with saline solution after each swim.
In addition to ‘intolerance’ to chlorine, there is also the so-called ‘swimmer’s itch’, which is an allergic reaction to microparasites present in lakes and ponds, but much less common. «If a person’s skin itches after swimming, it is most likely due to irritant dermatitis. To reduce the itching as much as possible, it is best to go to salt pools, take short showers with mild soaps and use special barrier moisturizing creams for swimming. They are applied before entering the water and create a protective film on our skin that prevents irritation,” explains dermatologist Ana Molina.
Tips to avoid this type of ‘allergic’ reactions
Shower before and after bathing:
Thus “the skin enters the pool water as clean as possible and the remains of chlorine and other agents are also removed when leaving,” they indicate in the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Pediatric Asthma (SEICAP).
Apply emollient and moisturizing creams:
Specialists agree that “well-hydrated skin strengthens the skin barrier against external irritating agents such as chlorine. “These types of creams are very effective before and after bathing.”
Avoid long baths:
Although it is complicated with children, “if children have respiratory allergy or asthma problems, atopic dermatitis or conjunctivitis, it is better that baths be short and brief to reduce their exposure to chlorine,” the SEICAP insists.
Wear swimming goggles and wash serum when going out:
Taking care of sensitive eyes is essential, so it is very useful to wear swimming goggles and avoid scratching your eyes when leaving the pool. “In case of itching or redness, it is advisable to wash with physiological saline.”
Choose, as far as possible, other types of pools:
More and more pools do not use chlorine to disinfect the water, but rather use other methods such as ultraviolet rays, ozone or salt. Saltwater ones are another alternative.
Avoid detergents with chlorine:
It is important to read the labels carefully to make sure they do not contain.
Bring rescue medication:
People with asthma or respiratory allergies or those who suffer from atopic dermatitis “should carry rescue medication with them to counteract any allergic reaction.”