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Chlorine rash – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on September 1, 2014

Chlorine rash is a type of skin condition which develops after exposure of the skin to chlorine. Most instances of chlorine rash form after contact with chlorine occurring in swimming pools. Hence, the condition is often referred to as swimming pool rash.

Chlorine has disinfecting qualities which can destroy bacteria and other germs. It is therefore used to disinfect the water present in varied public facilities such as public hot tubs, public swimming pools, and public water parks, etc. In fact, even drinking water is usually treated with chlorine as part of the water cleansing process.

Chlorine rash typically appears after a person gets exposed to chlorine present in water. It is generally accompanied by itching. The condition tends to clear on its own after some days.

Most people who get exposed to minor amounts of chlorine do not develop any extreme symptoms of chlorine rash. However, individuals who are allergic to chlorine can suffer from severe symptoms, even after mild contact with chlorine.

There is no standard method of treating chlorine rash. Patients can follow self-care guidelines as well as take preventive steps to avoid increased or chronic contact with chlorine.

Types, symptoms, and causes of chlorine rash

A chlorine rash can occur due to acute contact or chronic contact with chlorine and its constituents.

Chlorine rash typically develops due to skin irritation and allergic reactions that arise due to contact with the compounds and byproducts of chlorine. The assimilation of these substances with bodily organic matter such as perspiration, urine, etc. can lead to formation of strong skin irritants like dichloramines, trichloramines, and monochloramines.

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with rash from chlorine are mentioned below:

  • Affected skin may be itchy and slightly dry. Skin areas with chlorine rash may start peeling.
  • The eyes may experience irritation. Some affected individuals may experience feelings of scratchiness or grittiness in the eyes.
  • Burning sensations in the digestive tract, abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea may be evident.
  • Patients may experience sneezing and coughing.
  • Allergic or chemical-induced pink eye or conjunctivitis may develop. Affected people may experience swelling of the eyelids, increased tearing, disturbances of vision, and redness.
  • Temporary difficulties in breathing as well as temporary chest pain.

Chlorine rash associated with prolonged contact with chlorine

  • Long-term exposure to chlorine can make the epithelium occurring in the respiratory tract to become very sensitive. Hence, individuals who are constantly exposed to chlorine are very vulnerable to developing varied respiratory conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, nasal irritation, recurrent bronchitis, and hay fever. Atopic patients with chlorine rash are 10 time more vulnerable to experience such adverse respiratory problems. Affected children are at risk to developing infections of the ear and the airways.
  • Individuals whose occupations involve chronic contact with chlorine are more likely to suffer from dermatitis, coughing, and wheezing along with the development of chlorine rash. They may also experience lung injuries and respiratory system toxicity. The severity of the associated symptoms tends to vary according to the level of exposure to chlorine and its compounds.
  • Some of the occupations that are commonly associated with increased risk to development of chlorine rash include those at water treatment plants, cloth bleaching industries, and chlorine production units, as well as activities such as bleaching of pulp and cleaning and chlorination of swimming pools.

Complications of chlorine rash

Some of the health complications associated with an underlying case of chlorine rash are listed below:

  • Reactive upper-airways dysfunction syndrome/RUDS: The condition is almost like chronic rhinitis. It is caused due to acute exposure to certain irritants. The allergic hyper-reaction is limited to the upper section of the respiratory system. Patients may suffer from sinusitis and chlorine rash, but typically do not experience any breathing difficulties.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: It generally occurs due to an allergic reaction of the immune system after contact with allergens. Along with a case of chlorine rash, patients may suffer from blistering and formation of reddened patches on skin, within 1 to 2 days post chlorine exposure.
  • Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome/RADS: The condition is almost similar to asthma and is characterized by mild chronic inflammation of the airways, hypersensitivity of the respiratory tract, and thickening of the bronchial walls. It can occur after a single episode of concentrated contact with certain irritants. Patients may suffer from wheezing and breathing difficulties. Treatment cannot completely alleviate the symptoms.

Treatment of chlorine rash

Doctors are not aware of any cure for chlorine allergies. Therefore, the best way to prevent allergic reactions to chlorine is by avoiding its exposure. Doing so will also prevent the subsequent formation of chlorine rash.

The symptoms of chlorine rash can be alleviated with medications and other self-care measures, as discussed below:

  • Cold compresses can help soothe the affected areas of skin and alleviate irritation. Use of hydrocortisone creams is also helpful.
  • Rinse the eyes and the nearby areas with water to find relief from eye problems. Eye drops can help decrease ocular redness and dryness.
  • Take a proper bath prior to and after sessions at a public swimming pool. It will help clean and wash away varied kinds of skin irritants from the body.
  • Before entering a pool, apply Vaseline on those areas of the skin which are at greater risk to developing chlorine rash. This will help protect such regions from getting irritated.
  • Individuals with a high risk to developing chlorine rash should completely avoid contact with chlorinated water.
  • Accidental or job-related inhalation of chlorine fumes have to be immediately remedied. Discard the contaminated apparels and go to open areas with fresh air.
  • People who develop chlorine rash along with additional skin abnormalities should visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

chlorine rash pictures


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