Pools are pretty gross when you think about it. And as much as we may not love the idea of swimming in a bunch of chemicals—in this case, chlorine—that’s probably preferable to whatever else would be stewing in there without them. So, yes, chlorine is necessary and important, but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy its pungent aroma, or what it does to our skin.
If you’re swimming in an outdoor pool, your biggest skin-related concern probably has to do with UV-rays and trying to avoid getting a sunburn. (As it should be.) But even with plenty of SPF, after getting out of the pool, you may notice that your skin is especially tight, dry, and flaky. There’s a decent chance that’s from the chlorine. And some people have a much stronger reaction to it than others—including getting a rash. Here’s what to know about chlorine rashes, including how to identify and treat them.
What is a chlorine rash?
First things first: According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), getting a rash from chlorine does not mean you’re allergic to the chemical.
That’s because the rash is actually “irritant dermatitis,” which is kind of like a chemical burn, and is caused by hypersensitivity to chlorine. As it turns out, chlorine is a natural irritant—which is why your skin feels so tight and dry after getting out of a pool. Oh, and if you happen to already have some type of existing dermatitis, chlorine can make it even worse, the ACAAI notes.
What does a chlorine rash look like?
Typically, a chlorine rash involves at least one of these delightful symptoms, the ACAAI says:
- Skin redness, tenderness, inflammation, and/or itchiness at the site of contact
- Skin lesions or rash
- Scales or crust on the skin
How do you treat a chlorine rash?
The ACAAI recommends dealing with a chlorine rash similar to the way you’d treat other skin irritations and sensitivities: By “washing the affected area with clean water to try to remove any traces of the remaining irritant”—in this case, pool water.
If you have a more severe case and that doesn’t cut it, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or allergist in case it’s an unrelated allergic reaction. Depending on the situation, your healthcare provider may prescribe a corticosteroid cream (though if that happens, it must be taken as directed and not overused). If hives are involved, your practitioner may suggest taking an antihistamine, like Benadryl.
Yet another reason to rinse off in a quick shower after getting out of a pool.