My skin is suffering from chlorine rash; what happens next?
Chlorine rash is a kind of contact dermatitis, meaning it’s a skin condition that’s developed as a direct consequence of contact with, or an allergy to, a substance – in this instance, chlorine.
By far the most common way people get this uncomfortable rash is by failing to take a shower immediately following a swim in a chlorinated swimming pool, or even just relaxing in a hot tub.
Chlorine, a powerful disinfectant, is added to swimming pool water as a sanitary measure to kill off various microbial bacteria and viruses, but in order to avoid it having a detrimental effect on skin and hair health it must always be washed away by showering after a swim.
If you don’t shower (see our blog What Happens If You Don’t Shower After Swimming?) you risk the rash appearing, which depending on your skin sensitivity can occur as quickly as minutes, or within a few hours. Because it’s such a strong disinfectant with no current effective alternative, chlorine rash can develop even after you've showered, but fortunately these instances are rare.
If you do develop a chlorine rash you could experience these symptoms:
- itchiness: usually the first symptom
- patches of dry, chapped, and/or scaly-looking skin
- burning or stinging sensations
- tender and/or swollen skin
- bumps or hives.
The rash can appear anywhere on the body that’s been in direct contact with chlorine, and is especially common on the arms and torso. It can also make eyes red and sore.
Is chlorine rash temporary?
Two positive aspects about chlorine rash are that it’s not contagious – so you cannot give it to someone else, and anyone with the rash cannot transmit it to you – and that it’s perfectly treatable and a temporary problem.
Your chlorine rash should subside within a few days if you shower thoroughly, apply emollients, and stay clear from chlorinated water in pools or hot tubs for the duration, but depending on the sensitivity of your skin it could last from two to four weeks.
While chlorine rash typically goes away relatively quickly, if the hives prove stubborn you could ask a pharmacist or GP for antihistamines. In the meantime, treat your skin kindly with non-irritant skincare.
If you begin to experience breathing problems at a swimming pool as well as a rash, consult a doctor immediately, as this could be a sign that chlorine gas is affecting your lungs.
Of course, chlorine is not the only possible culprit for a post-dip rash: check out Why Do I Get A Rash When I Go Swimming? for other possible causes, and always check it out with a doctor if you're worried.
For more information about looking after your skin when swimming, see our article on The Best Natural Treatment For Chlorine Rash.
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.