Itchy, flaky, bumpy skin after swimming? Working out what’s going on is crucial to being able to sort out your rash, so let's take a look at what might be causing it.
There are three main possible culprits:
This isn’t either an infection or an allergic reaction, but a variety of irritant contact dermatitis, which occurs because chlorine is an irritant substance. It strips natural oils from the skin, making it vulnerable to dehydration, cracks and soreness. Chlorine can also trigger an inflammatory response in the body, leading to histamine release. That in turn causes rashes, bumps, hives and itchiness.
Swimmer’s itch/hot tub itch
Also known as Cercarial Dermatitis, this is a rash caused by a bacterial infection, contracted after contact with warm and untreated water. The culprit is often an inadequately treated swimming pool or hot tub. Bacterial infections can require antibiotics, so see your doctor if your rash doesn’t improve.
In rare cases, prolonged contact with water can be the cause of an itchy rash. Water, counterintuitively, can be dehydrating, especially to people with an impaired skin barrier function, such as those prone to eczema or psoriasis. Water can cause the skin to lose its vital oils, leaving it dry, sensitive and uncomfortable. There are even some who have a sensitive or allergy to water itself (aquagenic urticaria), which brings them out in hives.
It’s also possible to react to other things you might encounter if you’re swimming in nature, not in a municipal pool! Algae, yeasts, bacteria, jellyfish, and water-borne parasites can all cause swimmers to beak out in itchy rashes.
Symptoms of various water-related rashes obviously vary from person to person, but chlorine rash comes on after contact with chlorinated water, and should disappear within a few days. If you're worried about the rash worsening, what caused it, or if your breathing is affected, then consult a doctor.
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.