Allergy Symptoms? It Could be the Chlorine in Your Water
Posted on December 07 2020
Have you ever experienced your skin turning red, blotchy, dry, or irritated after a bath or shower? Maybe you avoid swimming pools because they tend to aggravate your eczema, asthma, and dermatitis. If you’ve dealt with any of these symptoms, there’s a good chance you are sensitive to chlorine, which often leads to an adverse reaction known as “chlorine allergy.”
Municipal water systems use chlorine to disinfect water before transporting it to your home. Likewise, many pool owners add the chemical to swimming pools to combat pathogens known for causing cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and other waterborne diseases and illnesses. However, if you take long showers in chlorine-treated water or spend too much time in chlorinated swimming pools, you are more likely to experience signs of chlorine sensitivity or intolerance. It gets even worse if you have some underlying allergy problems.
Before we dive any deeper, we must point out that you can’t actually be allergic to chlorine. Instead, the fumes released from the chlorine chemical reactions in the water trigger allergy symptoms – not the chlorine itself. With that said, let’s briefly talk about chlorine as a water disinfectant, then discuss how to prevent and treat chlorine allergy.What is Chlorine?
Chlorine is a naturally-occurring chemical element that exists as a toxic, irritant, and poisonous greenish-yellow gas at room temperature. It can be pressurized and cooled, then converted to liquid form. When the liquid chlorine is released, it quickly converts to a rapidly spreading gas in low-lying areas.Uses of Chlorine
Chlorine is a vital chemical that serves many different purposes. Its most common application is disinfecting swimming pools and drinking water and sanitizing sewage and industrial waste. It is even used as a bleaching agent in paper and cloth production.
Chlorine also serves as an active ingredient in several cleaning products, including household bleach, which is essentially chlorine dissolved in water. It is also a component in sodium chloride, the regular table salt that we use to cook, bake, enhance tastes, and preserve food. The chemical also plays a crucial role in manufacturing medicines, PVC pipes, plastics, bumpers, seat cushions, chlorides, chlorinated solvents, pesticides, polymers, synthetic rubbers, refrigerants and more.Routes of Chlorine Exposure
Your risk of chlorine exposure depends on how close you are to a place where chlorine was used or released. If chlorine gas is released into the air, people may be exposed through the skin or eye contact. They also may be exposed by inhaling chlorine-tainted air. Chlorine may also enter the body when you consume food or water contaminated with chlorine or through skin absorption (when you take long baths or showers with chlorinated water). Furthermore, because of chlorine’s widespread use in industrial and commercial areas, people can be exposed to the chemical if there’s an accidental spill or release, or even from a terrorist attack.What are the health effects of chlorine exposure?
Once you’ve been exposed to dangerous chlorine concentrations, you may experience a variety of common symptoms, including:
The severity of these health effects depends on a few things:
- the route of exposure
- the dose of chlorine one is exposed to, and
- the duration of exposure to the chemical
Research shows that long-term chlorine exposure may encourage the production of free radicals in the body. And as you may recall from science class, free radicals are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and can cause tremendous damage to cells, increasing the risk of certain types of cancer. Besides, inhaling too much chlorine may cause fluid buildup in the lungs, causing pulmonary edema, where the lungs swell due to the excessive amount of fluid trapped. On top of that, contact with compressed liquid chlorine may cause frostbite on the skin and eyes.
However, it’s important to note that showing any of the signs and symptoms listed above doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to chlorine.What is chlorine allergy?
Chlorine allergy refers to a person’s adverse reaction once exposed to chlorine, whether internally or externally. This kind of allergy falls under the fourth allergy type, where symptoms are delayed. Because of this delay, it’s difficult for someone to tell whether they’re already experiencing chlorine allergy.What causes chlorine allergy?
Chlorine allergy is usually a result of chlorine sensitivity. You are more likely to experience chlorine allergy if you are already dealing with skin issues, respiratory or nasal problems. Chlorine may indirectly contribute to allergy symptoms by irritating and sensitizing the respiratory tract. Studies have suggested that frequent swimming in chlorinated pools and exposure to cleaning products containing chlorine can aggravate asthma and other respiratory allergies, both in adolescents and adults.
When people with these underlying allergies enter a chlorinated pool and inhale deeply, they will likely feel a burning sensation in their lungs. This occurs because the chlorine reacts with other organic and inorganic matter in the water, forming a pungent gas. Once inhaled, this gas can irritate the respiratory tract and create chronic respiratory symptoms.
Furthermore, when there’s a high chlorine concentration in water, it can burn sensitive skin or worsen existing skin conditions (for example, eczema). This is especially dangerous when the water is warm, as warm water usually opens up the skin’s pores, allowing a greater level of exposure to the chemical.
Another cause of chlorine allergy is the formation of chloramines. Chloramines are a byproduct of chlorine’s chemical reaction with sweat, urine, oils, and other water impurities. Some chloramines stay in the water, irritate the skin and eyes, and can be released into the air around swimming pools, affecting the nose, throat, and lungs when inhaled. Whenever you smell the stifling “chlorine odor” evident in many indoor swimming facilities, it’s the chloramines released from the chlorine chemical reactions in the water.Effects of Chlorine Allergy
Depending on the exposure level, it’s easy to tell if someone has a chlorine allergy. It’s as simple as observing various symptoms. During or immediately after exposure to dangerous concentrations of chlorine, the following signs and symptoms are typical:
- Irritation of the eyes: Eye irritation does not only occur when a chlorine-sensitive person swims in a chlorinated pool. It may be experienced when one uses household products and cleaners that release chlorine fumes. Itchiness, dryness, redness, and watering of eyes that result from close contact with chlorine are often clear indications of chlorine allergy.
- Constant coughing: Excessive coughing with substernal aching usually occurs when someone with chlorine allergy smells or touches chlorine. However, keep in mind that this symptom can be misleading, as coughing occasionally may not be a symptom of allergy but a sign of sensitivity to the chemical.
- Respiratory failures: Chlorine is known to disrupt proper respiratory functions in individuals. Therefore, people with chlorine allergy experience symptoms similar to those of asthma, such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, tightening of the chest, and suffocation, in some cases. When these symptoms occur, it’s best to seek an allergist to ensure it’s not exercise-induced asthma.
- Sneezing: Sneezing is one of the most common symptoms after inhaling chlorine fumes, especially after staying around pools or using household chemicals too often. Runny nose and nasal congestion may also occur due to chlorine’s irritant nature or because of seasonal allergies.
- Skin irritation: Chlorine can lead to skin problems, such as dryness, redness, itchiness, skin lesions or chlorine allergy rash, scales or crust in the skin, and hives (itchy bumps). It can also trigger eczema flare-ups and a condition similar to “swimmer’s itch” (a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites that infect some birds and mammals).
- Nausea: Several people have claimed to experience vomiting and dizziness after exposure to high chlorine levels. In some extreme cases, people with chlorine allergy may also experience delusions.
- Neurological problems: Experiencing mild to severe headaches or disorientation, or both are often common after excess chlorine exposure. (rare and could be due to other causes)
If you suspect a severe chlorine allergic reaction (like difficulty breathing), seek medical attention immediately. However, there are some things you can do yourself to manage and treat milder chlorine allergy symptoms.
Skin sensitivity is typically treated by washing the affected area with clean water. Doing so helps remove traces of the irritants, i.e., the cleaning product or swimming pool water. You can also treat skin irritation due to chlorine allergy at home with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Some of these drugs can relieve most rashes, bumps, dryness, etc., after a few days.
Here are a few OTC creams that can alleviate skin irritations due to chlorine allergy:
- Hydrocortisone creams reduce itching, redness, and swelling of the skin. These creams are typically available at your local drugstore or pharmacy. In most cases, they’re sold under specific brand names, like Cortisone 10, Cortaid, or the regular hydrocortisone. Make sure to read the instructions provided and follow them accordingly.
- Topical Benadryl (diphenhydramine) creams ease the itching and irritation associated with chlorine rash. Apply as directed.
- Emollient lotions and creams moisturize dry skin caused by chlorine exposure. Please ensure that you choose a cream that’s odorless and hypo-allergenic. The last thing you want is to irritate the rash.
If you experience chlorine allergy, it may worsen the longer you’re exposed to chlorine. Therefore, consider spending less time dipping in chlorinated pools or hot tubs so that your skin can recover. Additionally, if the OTC drugs described above aren’t working out for you, try these home remedies:
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera is perhaps the most widely used herbal remedy for topical skin conditions. The plant’s gel-like component is known to heal the skin from various ailments, including acne, sunburns, skin irritations due to chlorine allergy, etc. After cleaning your skin, cut a section of the leaf to get the gel and apply it to the affected area. The gel’s cooling and anti-inflammatory properties will soothe the irritated and itchy skin.
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has plenty of exceptional benefits, including its antimicrobial properties. Add a few drops to water and apply it to the skin to relieve itching.
- Baking soda. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a well-known multi-purpose household product that can even help ease rashes, bug bites, or poison ivy.
- Coconut oil. Chronic inflammation is a possible component of many different skin disorders, including those caused or aggravated by chlorine allergy. Thankfully, coconut oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to its effects on inflammation, applying coconut oil to the skin can help keep it moisturized and significantly improve skin hydration. However, ensure you are not allergic to coconut oil before using it.
- Oatmeal bath. Interestingly, oatmeal is not only a fantastic breakfast option; It can also come in handy for a host of skin irritations. Oatmeal can “soak up” excess oil from the skin and help treat acne. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties also help treat dry skin, relieve itchiness, and remove dead skin cells.
- Tea tree oil or other plant-based oils. The anti-inflammatory effect of tea tree oil helps ease pain and irritated skin. It also helps reduce redness and swelling and alleviate dry skin and eczema, itchy skin, inflammation, acne, and a variety of other skin issues. Still, it’s essential to follow a few precautions when using tea tree oil. Firstly, you should not apply it directly to the skin. Instead, dilute it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil. For every one to two drops of tea tree oil, add 12 drops of carrier oil. Also, be careful when using tea tree oil around the eye area, as exposure can cause redness and irritation. Finally, before using tea tree oil, apply it to a small skin area to ensure your skin does react to the tea tree oil.
- Apply a damp “cool” compress. Dampen a few clean, soft washcloths, then apply and hold them on the irritated area for 15 to 30 minutes. This soothes your skin and reduces inflammation.
- Avoid scratching. The quickest way to worsen your already-pesky skin irritation is to scratch your skin. We know the itchiness can be quite discomforting, but please try to keep your nails short if you can’t help but scratch it. Better yet, cover the affected area with a clean dressing or cloth.
Note: Before applying any of the treatments listed above, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with clean water and dry your hands properly. You can also wear gloves to protect your hands and prevent further irritation of the skin. Let’s continue.Some advice in case of chlorine exposure
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re exposed to chlorine, here are a few pieces of advice to help you reduce exposure and minimize the chemical’s effects on your health:
- Leave the area where the chlorine is settling or dispersing and get fresh air. If outdoors, go as high as possible. Remember, chlorine is heavier than air and will gather in lower areas.
- If you have swallowed chlorine, do not induce vomiting or drink fluids. Seek medical attention right away.
- If the chlorine release was indoors, exit the building.
- If you are exposed, remove your clothing. The CDC advises that you wash your entire body with soap and water, then seek medical attention as quickly as possible. If you discover that your clothing has liquid chlorine on it, remove it from the body immediately, cutting them instead of pulling them over your head. If possible, place the clothing in a plastic bag and seal it in a second plastic bag. Do not handle the plastic bags further.
- If you’re helping other people remove their clothing, avoid touching contaminated areas, and be as quick as possible.
- If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure to remove contact lenses (if any) before doing so, then discard them. Please do not put them back into your eyes. You can re-wear spectacles after washing them with soap and clean water.
The best approach to prevent chlorine allergy, in general, is to avoid the factors that trigger the condition in the first place. But since chlorine is added to most (if not all) public water sources, you may think it’s almost impossible to avoid exposure to the chemical – unless your water doesn’t come from a municipality.
Thankfully, installing water filters in your home is a reliable way to remove or reduce chlorine content in your tap water. Still, it’s essential to invest in a brand that provides high-quality, reliable, and efficient systems – not to mention excellent customer support, warranty and satisfaction guarantee, and all the other factors that contribute to a remarkable customer experience.
If you want to enjoy chlorine-free water in your home without losing the vital bacterial protection chlorine provides, you can either install a whole-house water filter (like the Smart Water Club Whole House Neutralizing Carbon Filter) or one of our point-of-use Titan 4 Stage under-sink reverse osmosis filters.
Chlorine is a powerful and popular disinfectant used by many water systems and pool owners across America. However, exposure to the chemical can trigger allergic reactions from people with chlorine sensitivity. The effects of chlorine exposure can be scary, ranging from harsh skin irritations to respiratory issues. Luckily, you can reduce your exposure to this toxic chemical by installing one of our reliable, efficient, and affordable water filtration systems.
Visit smartwater.club today to find out how much chlorine is in your water, and to find out what products are best for your water filtration needs.