Both the swimmer’s itch and chlorine rash are swimming-related rashes. A swimmer’s itch is due to the microscopic parasites that dwell in fresh water whereas a chlorine rash is a reaction of your body because of exposure to chlorine in the water.
In a swimmer’s itch, the parasites are from the snails which are present in the water. When you come in contact with them, the parasites can enter your skin. It can cause rashes which looks like small pimples. Medically, this condition is known as ‘cercarial dermatitis.’
Knowing the difference between a swimmer’s itch and a chlorine rash depends on where you are swimming. Freshwater doesn’t have chlorine, unlike the swimming pools. If a pool is clean and well-maintained, it contains the right amount of chlorine which will prevent the growth of parasites.
Meanwhile, you will be more likely to experience a swimmer’s itch when you swim in salt or fresh water. This is especially true when you swim in the shallow water by the shoreline.
In this article, you will learn the causes of both the chlorine rash and swimmer’s itch. Apart from the causes, you will learn the signs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of it.
Understanding Chlorine Rash
Chlorine is a chemical that pool owners use to remove the bacteria in the water. With this, the pool becomes a safe environment to swim and enjoy. Because of its powerful disinfectant features, it has been currently added to various cleaning solutions.
Indeed, chlorine has multiple benefits. However, frequent exposure of swimmers to chlorine at the pool can cause several negative effects. This element can cause dryness and irritation of the skin. This is true even if you have regularly been swimming and haven’t experienced skin problems in the past.
If you experienced a rash after swimming, is it not automatically that you are allergic to chlorine. You might just be sensitive to it. Luckily, there are ways on how you can treat chlorine rash without avoiding swimming early on.
Symptoms of Chlorine Rash
Chlorine rash can make the skin itch after swimming. The common symptoms are the following:
- Crusting or scaling
- Red and itchy rash
- Hives or small bumps
- Tender or swollen skin
- Skin that can bleed or crack after frequent contact with chlorine
- Blisters or sores
Your eyes can be irritated from chlorine exposure. Sometimes, it can affect the respiratory tract too. When you are exposed to chlorine, you might notice that you sneeze and cough frequently.
Cause of the Chlorine Rash
Not all swimmers experience a chlorine rash. People can often experience this when they repeatedly get themselves exposed to chlorine. The immune system may tag chlorine as a foreign invader similar to virus or bacteria. As such, the skin becomes irritated and inflamed. Chlorine can strip off the natural oils from the skin which causes it to dry.
Even if you rinse or bathe yourself after chlorine exposure, there are residues that can remain in the skin. Indeed, continued exposure can lead to prolonged irritation and agony. With this, those at risk for chlorine reactions are the swimmers, professional cleaners, and the lifeguards.
Sometimes, the caretaker of the pool may add too many chlorine in the pool. Excessive chlorine in the water can be irritating for the skin.
Treatment of Chlorine Rash
You can solve a chlorine rash by buying over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Examples of these are corticosteroid creams like hydrocortisone. However, most of the medical professionals don’t recommend the hydrocortisone cream on the face. The skin on the face is thin and the cream can irritate the eyes and mouth.
If you experience hives, you can take medications or apply diphenhydramine cream like Benadryl on the skin. You can also buy lotions or body washes which has the ability to remove chlorine and can soothe the skin.
Avoid scented lotions which can add irritation of the skin caused by chlorine. The topical applications mentioned above will help reduce the incidence of a chlorine rash. This can help you swim comfortably and enjoy the day.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you are experiencing a severe allergic reaction such as hives or difficulty in breathing, then you must consult a doctor immediately. An allergist will diagnose you and help treat the problems which are related to a chlorine rash. This is true especially for those who have a chlorine rash but still wanted to swim and continue their exposure.
Moreover, if your chlorine rash is not healed by the OTC medications, you must consult a medical specialist. For example, an allergist can give you stronger treatments, like the prescribed corticosteroid creams.
Understanding Swimmer’s Itch
Cercarial dermatitis is due to a parasitic worm that clings in your skin. Don’t worry, this parasite doesn’t live in humans. It accidentally attaches to the skin while searching for an animal host. Its normal life cycle is from the water animal to snail and vice versa. You just happen to be present and swimming in the water when the parasite is looking for its natural host.
The worm can infect the waterfowl’s blood as well as all the animals that live near the water. Then, the animals or birds can pass the eggs of the parasites into the water by their feces. As soon as the parasite’s eggs hatch in the water, the larvae can swim around and find their second host who is the snail. After the parasite infects the snail, it will develop in it. The snail will excrete other parasitic larvae in the water. Such larvae are known as the cercariae which swim around in the water looking for water animals. Then, the cycle continues.
These larvae can live for 24 hours while it hunts for a host to live and continue the cycle. Thus, if you swim in infected water, some of the worms can land on your skin.
Outlook for Swimmer’s Itch
During summer, swimmer’s itch is a common ailment at different parts of the world. The rash can clear up on its own without experiencing further complications. As soon as the rash is gone, you can have a pigmented spot where the pimple was for some weeks.
Determining how long can the water remain infective will depend on several factors:
- There are hundreds of species that can be the parasite’s host
- There are various parasites species with its own attributes
- Waterfowl are migratory, and they can pick up the parasite at any parts of the world
- The life cycle of the parasite will depend on the infecting the snails or birds present
- The sunlight and temperature play a major role in the life cycle of the parasite.
According to a study in 2015, more research is needed to determine the control measures. For example, it is advised to know more of the particular species involved to determine its control efforts. Moreover, a warming climate can have a tendency to increase the incidence of swimmer’s rash among us.
Indeed, control efforts are not an easy task. It is possible to cure the waterfowl with the use of an anti-worm drug to decrease the parasite population. This will need us to capture, treat, and release the birds individually. Reducing the waterbird population in recreational areas is a hard task. It is also possible to use snail or poison, however, this can bring damaging effects on other animals.
Overall, it can be difficult to control the prevalence of the parasite in certain bodies of water. But take note that a swimmer’s itch is not a serious medical condition.
People at Risk of Swimmer’s Itch
You can be at risk of experiencing the swimmer’s itch whenever you swim in an infested freshwater. If you put in shallow water near the shoreline can put your life at a higher risk since the larvae can be present.
In addition, children can be at risk since they play and wade at the shore. If you have experienced a swimmer’s itch before, you will likely to experience a worse reaction the next time you get exposed to it.
It is important to remember that chlorinated and well-maintained pools are safe to swim in. This won’t pose the danger of catching the swimmer’s itch on you. Moreover, swimmer’s itch is not contagious.
Diagnosis of Swimmer’s Itch
Cercarial dermatitis can be challenging to distinguish from other types of skin reactions like bacterial infections, jellyfish stings, poison ivy, and insect bites. Your doctors might ask questions to aid in diagnosis. Some of the questions include:
- When did the rash begin?
- Have you been wading or swimming recently in salt or fresh water?
- Are there any other people swimming with a rash?
Your doctor might ask your medical history. Thus, you must disclose any allergies, medications, or supplements that you have. If the itching becomes severe, the doctor will prescribe stronger medicines for you.
Treatment of Swimmer’s Itch
You can rely on home treatments to calm the itch that you have from a swimmer’s rash. Some of the remedies available are the following:
- Cold compress
- Corticosteroid cream
- Anti-itch cream or lotion
- Baths with Epsom salts, baking soda, or colloidal oatmeal
- Baking soda paste
When you are thinking about swimming in fresh water, avoid wading in places where you know swimmers who experienced a swimmer’s itch.
How to Prevent a Chlorine Rash and Swimmer’s Itch
Here are some of the effective ways on how to avoid a chlorine rash:
Apply Petroleum Jelly
Apply petroleum jelly on your skin before diving in the pool. This can provide better protection on your skin and the water.
Take a Break From Swimming
Take a break from swimming or pool cleaning for some time and allow your skin to heal. Repeated exposure, while you have the rash or itch, can only make matters worse.
Take a Shower
Take a shower or a bath before or after your exposure to chlorine. If you apply lotion on your skin with chlorine, it will only irritate you more.
Showering can help reduce your risk of experiencing rashes or infections. Showering with warm water and soap after swimming can help eliminate the bacteria from your hair and skin. For pool owners or homeowners who wish to protect the swimmers, you can invest in a shower head filter now such as the Berkey Shower Filter. Here are some of the reasons why:
Remove Chlorine and Parasites in the Skin
When you take a shower without a water filter, chlorine from the pools will not be removed in your body. With this, the chemical can enter the body, travel the bloodstream, contaminate it, and cause damage.
But when you shower with a filter like the Berkey Shower Filter, it helps protect your body on the inside. This can help you fit and energized especially after a long day of the swim. The skin will look younger and glowing, and be ready for a day of fun.
The Berkey Shower Filter is an affordable solution that you can have to prevent swimmer’s itch and chlorine rash. You can easily screw this in between the shower pipe from your wall and the showerhead and you are ready to take a splash.
The filter can last for one year or 25,000 gallons of water. It contains an improved filtration media which is effective in the removal of hydrogen sulfide, chlorine, and iron oxide or rust water.
Moreover, this product can work in various temperatures and its maximum operating temperature is up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Apart from removing chlorine, it can also remove different pollutants that can cause skin issues.
The Berkey Shower Filter is BPA free, effective for both cold and hot water, and it can reduce up to 95% of chlorine.
Indeed, swimming is an enjoyable experience. It can boost your day, take your troubles away, and get ready for the challenges ahead.
Chlorine is added to the swimming pool to kill the bacteria present. But with prolonged exposure, this can cause rashes to the skin. Meanwhile, fresh and salt water can contain parasites which can itch the skin. Even if how healthy you are, you might not notice that the parasites start to cause damage in your skin.
However, you need not stop yourself from enjoying swimming because there are few effective steps you can do to treat an itch or rash. You can take medications or shower with the use of a filter. With a shower filter, the levels of harmful bacteria and chemicals can be reduced. This can decrease your risk of possible disease. As you install it, it can remove the sediments which are present in the water. It can reduce the traces of chemicals in the skin and keep you away from sickness.
For most people, buying a shower filter is worth the price. With this, they can protect themselves and their family from inhaling, absorbing, or consuming dangerous pathogens and chemicals. This will leave a soft skin and hair.
Invest now in a good shower head filter like the Berkey Shower Filter.