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Chlorine Rash & Swimmer’s Itch: Pictures, Symptoms, & Treatment

Dealing with itchy red bumps on skin after swimming in a pool? Learn the differences between chlorine rash and swimmer’s itch (pool rashes) and how to find relief.

Common Pool Rashes

As summer approaches, warmer weather makes you and your family want to swim, seeking relief from the heat, a cooler way to exercise, and the fun a sparkling swimming pool can bring. But as you spend more time poolside, there are some things to know about two common skin rashes that can develop: chlorine rash and swimmer’s itch. Learn about what causes them, what to do about them, and when to seek medical help.

Chlorine Rash

You developed itchy red bumps after swimming in a pool and wonder: can chlorine cause rashes? Absolutely. Commonly mislabeled a chlorine allergy, it’s not an allergy at all, but a skin sensitivity to chlorine known as irritant contact dermatitis. After swimming in a chlorinated pool, something closer to a chemical burn than an allergy can appear on hypersensitive skin. And what does chlorine rash look like? Chlorine rash pictures will depict skin with a red, hives-like rash that can be itchy, inflamed, tender to the touch, scaley, or crusty. This rash will appear a few hours after contact with chlorinated water. The longer you spend in the water, the more irritated your skin can become.

Sensitive skin is reacting to the hypochlorous acid that develops when chlorine encounters water. This acid prevents the pool from being contaminated, but it can also severely dry out skin. Lessening skin’s moisture barrier will cause dryness, flaking, and itching and is most common among active swimmers, lifeguards, and maintenance workers.

If you’re wondering how long a chlorine rash will last, the irritation should resolve in a few days. Here are some ways to treat and prevent such a rash from occurring again:

  • Treat your rash by washing your skin after swimming to remove any chlorine. Apply a gentle moisturizer, choosing a brand developed for sensitive skin to avoid further irritation. Apply hydrocortisone cream for a few days to alleviate symptoms.
  • Prevent future rashes. This is not an allergy, so there’s no reason to avoid chlorine altogether. Instead, create a barrier between your skin and the water by applying a product like Vaseline or Aquaphor. Mineral sunscreens do double duty as sun protection and a barrier between skin and water. And always hose off or shower soon after a swim.

Swimmer’s Itch

This type of rash is, in fact, an allergy, but it isn’t caused by chlorine. Cercarial dermatitis is an allergy caused by microscopic parasites found on certain birds and animals. The parasite’s larvae infect aquatic snails. The snails enable the larvae’s release into the water, where they seek appropriate hosts. If you are swimming in water with infected snails, you could be mistaken for that appropriate host, and the parasites will burrow into your skin.

An allergic reaction in the form of tingling, burning, itchy, reddish pimple-like bumps, and small blisters can develop minutes or days after swimming in contaminated water. Symptoms can last a week or more but should eventually go away. Here are some tips for treating and preventing this reaction:

  • Treat your rash with corticosteroid creams, cool compresses, Epsom salt or colloidal oatmeal baths, a paste of baking soda applied to the skin, and anti-itch lotion.
  • Prevent future reactions by keeping swimming pools maintained and chlorinated. Don’t swim where signs have been posted indicating the water is contaminated. Avoid swimming in marshy areas where snails are present. And be sure to towel off and shower immediately after a swim.

American Family Care: Providing Treatment for Your Summer Skin Rashes

While these types of rashes often go away with time on their own, you may wish to seek the advice of medical experts if redness and irritation worsen. A secondary bacterial infection can develop if you can’t resist the urge to scratch affected skin. If you have a severe allergic reaction like hives or difficulty breathing, see a medical professional who can help you create a treatment plan.

American Family Care offers family care services for every member of your family. You can count on American Family Care to provide all the treatments your family needs. Walk-ins are welcome, and most forms of insurance are accepted. Find a location today.

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