Chlorine rash refers to an abnormality of the skin which occurs after it is exposed to chlorine. Most people develop the skin rash after swimming in pools, as pools are typically cleansed with the chemical. This is one of the reasons why chlorine rash is also called ‘swimming pool rash.’
Varied public facilities like public pools, public hot tubs, and amusement water parks, etc., are cleansed and disinfected using chlorine. It may be noted that the chemical has disinfecting properties which destroy a variety of pathogens, including bacteria. In fact, the process of drinking water treatment and purification, before it is sent to the taps, involves the use of chlorine as a disinfectant.
Chlorine rash primarily develops after the skin comes into contact with chlorine occurring in water, drinking or otherwise. Affected people may also suffer from itchiness. Individuals who are exposed to low levels of chlorine usually do not experience any severe signs or symptoms of chlorine rash, which may eventually develop. However, individuals with allergies to the chemical can experience extreme adverse reactions and symptoms even with minor exposure.
The rash disappears after a few days without any medical treatment.Severe cases of the rash are treated by a doctor as per individual cases, as there is no standard treatment option. Preventive measures as well as adequate self-care to avoid contact with chlorine can help prevent the development of chlorine rash.
Chlorine Rash: Types, Symptoms, and Causes
There are 2 ways in which people can develop chlorine rash, i.e., acute contact or prolonged contact with the chemical or its components.
In most cases, chlorine rash forms as a result of allergic reactions and skin irritation caused due to exposure with the byproducts, compounds, and constituents of chlorine. When these items mix with varied organic matter of the human body, including urine and sweat, it can result in the production of potent skin allergens such as monochloramines, trichloramines, and dichloramines, which eventually trigger the formation of chlorine rash.
Acute contact with chlorine can result in the following signs and symptoms:
- The skin area with the rash may become mildly dry and also itch. It may also experience skin peeling.
- Affected people may suffer from coughing, wheezing, or sneezing.
- The eyes may get irritated. Some patients may suffer from grittiness or scratchy sensations in the eyes.
- Patients may also develop a case of allergic or chemically-triggered conjunctivitis. There may be excessive tearing of the eyes, vision problems and disturbances, eyelid inflammation and swelling, and redness.
- Some patients may experience burning sensations in the intestinal tract, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.
- Mild pain in the chest and temporary breathing problems may be evident.
Chronic contact with chlorine
- Prolonged contact with chlorine can result in increased sensitivity of the epithelium present in the airways.
- People who come into contact with chlorine over long periods of time are therefore extremely susceptible to development of adverse respiratory symptoms like hay fever, relapsing bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and irritation of the nasal passageway.
- Children with chlorine rash may also suffer from infections of the respiratory tract and the ears.
- Atopic patients suffering from a case of chlorine rash are ten times more likely to have such respiratory difficulties.
- In addition to developing chlorine rash, people with jobs that involve long-term chlorine exposure are at high risk to suffering from coughing, dermatitis, and wheezing. They may also elicit lung damage and toxicity of the respiratory system. The intensity of these adverse symptoms are usually dependent on the severity of contact with chlorine and its components.
- Jobs at chlorine production plants, pulp and cloth bleaching factories, swimming pools, water parks, and water treatment units, etc., are some of the common occupations linked to elevated vulnerability to formation of chlorine rash.
Severe cases of chlorine rash can result in varied health complications. A few of them are listed below:
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis: This skin condition is caused as an immune system allergic reaction after contact with irritants and allergens and is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including blistering and development of reddish skin patches, a day or two after contact with the chemical.
- RUDS: Also known as reactive upper-airways dysfunction syndrome, this complication of chlorine rash is a disease that causes symptoms similar to those caused by chronic rhinitis. Acute exposure to certain allergens causes a hyper-reaction which affects just the upper part of the airways. Affected people may have sinusitis, but will usually not face any breathing problems.
- RADS: Also called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, this chlorine rash complication is almost like asthma. It causes hypersensitivity and long-term mild inflammation of the respiratory tract as well as hardening of the bronchial walls. Affected people may elicit breathing problems and wheezing. Treatment usually cannot fully ease the symptoms.
Treatment of chlorine rash
Currently, there is no cure for allergies to chlorine or its compounds. Hence, the best solution is to take all the steps necessary to avoid contact with chlorine and thus prevent the development of chlorine rash.
Doctors may prescribe medications and suggest self-care guidelines to help alleviate the symptoms associated with chlorine rash. A few remedies and self-care measures are listed below:
- Dryness and redness of the eyes can be alleviated with eye drops. Regularly rinse the eyes and the surrounding areas with cold water to relive mild ocular problems.
- Application of hydrocortisone cream on affected areas can help find relief from skin irritation. Use of cold compresses can also work wonders.
- Apply Vaseline on skin areas most vulnerable to chlorine rash development before entering a pool. It will protect such skin areas from allergic reactions or irritation.
- Shower properly before and after using the pool, especially a public pool. It will help remove irritants clinging to the body.
- Occupational or accidental inhalation of chlorine smoke has to be checked by a doctor. But the immediate thing to do is to go out into the open and breathe in fresh air.
- High-risk groups should avoid all contact with chlorinated water.
- Patients who develop complications of chlorine rash or additional skin problems should seek immediate medical attention.