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Chlorine Sensitivity - Swimmers Sensitive to Chlorine

September 14, 2013

30 comments


Chlorine SensitivityChlorine Sensitivity

Chlorine sensitivity refers to a person's unusually adverse reaction to chlorine.  (Throughout this article, everything discussed for chlorine also applies to bromine).  Some swimmers find that their skin becomes irritated or itchy more easily than other swimmers.  For example, some swimmers report having an itchy, runny nose, that causes sneezing. Those who report having a "chlorine sensitivity" may also be more prone to rashes after swimming in chlorinated pools.  The term "chlorine sensitivity" is often used interchangeably with the term "chlorine allergy."

My relationship with chlorine was a bit strange.  I swam competitively all through high school and Princeton.  During high school, I swam in an old Boys' Club pool which always smelled like chlorine.  My hair turned clear/white, I smelled like chlorine all the time, and my skin became dry and irritated.  At the time, I just accepted it.  My parents bought me UltraSwim shampoo.  But it didn't work.  I would use lotion, which only seemed to smear the chlorine around.  Eventually, I gave up and viewed these symptoms as part of being a "real" swimmer.  It took me about 20 years of swimming and two doctoral degrees to figure out the simple answer to my chlorine problems.  Chlorine sensitivity is caused by exposure to chlorine.  If you wash the chlorine off of your body after swimming, it helps quite a bit.

Chlorine Sensitivity - Caused by Chlorine

A swimmer's adverse reactions to chlorine can be dramatically reduced by lessening the swimmer's exposure to chlorine.  This may sound simple because it is simple. Chlorine is rather hash to a swimmer's hair and skin.  (It is the exact same chemical found in household bleach).  Chlorine is excellent at sanitizing pools (killing bacteria, etc).  But that sanitizing power comes with some unwanted side-effects.  In particular, the pool chlorine also reacts with the swimmer's hair and skin.  See Chlorine Reacts with Skin.  Upon reacting with the hair and skin, it chemically bonds to the hair and skin.  Chemically speaking, this reaction leaves the skin covered in a layer of chloramines.

After chlorine reacts with a swimmer's skin, it becomes very difficult to wash away, leaving behind a film of lingering chlorine.  That residual lingering chlorine continues to eat away at hair and skin for hours or days after the swimmer leaves the pool.  Showering and/or regular shampooing does not eliminated those lingering pool chemicals.  This prolonged exposure to lingering chlorine creates significant problems for swimmers having a particular sensitivity to chlorine.  

In my view, this is good news because swimmers can reduce their exposure to chlorine without reducing their time in the pool.  Swimmers can do this by simply doing a better job washing the chlorine off of their bodies after swimming.

Chlorine Sensitivity - Treatment

For swimmers having a particular sensitivity to chlorine, the best "treatment" is minimizing exposure to chlorine.  Again, this sounds simple because it is simple:  If chlorine makes your skin itchy and irritated, try to reduce your exposure to chlorine.

Of course many swimmers with chlorine sensitivity may not want to reduce the amount of time that they spend in the pool.  Swimming is wonderful.  It is incredible exercise and also insanely fun.  Moreover, competitive swimmers often require 2-4 hours of swim training each day.  For a serious swimmer, reducing time spent in the pool is often undesirable or simply not an option.

With SwimSpray's new vitamin C technology, swimmers can reduce exposure to chlorine without decreasing time spent in the pool.  By eliminating the lingering chlorine immediately after leaving the pool, a swimmer can limit chlorine exposure to the time spent in the pool.  For many, this provides a significant benefit to hair and skin health.  For those reporting a chlorine sensitivity, eliminating the lingering chlorine can reduce the undesirable itching, rashes, and dryness.

I invented SwimSpray almost ten years after graduating from college.  At the time, I was working at a law firm and swimming before work.  Unlike my college classes, the law firm required buttoned-up collared shirts, which fit pretty snug at my neck.  The combination of business casual attire and lingering chlorine really bothered my skin on account of the rubbing.  Since I didn't want to give up swimming in the morning, I knew that I needed to find a better way to wash the chlorine off my my hair and skin.  Fortunately, by that time I had the benefit of a PhD in chemistry, so I was able to devise a chemical solution to the lingering chlorine problem.  That solution evolved into SwimSpray.

Rinsing with Vitamin C after Swimming

A swimmer can eliminate lingering chlorine by rinsing with vitamin C after swimming.  Chemically this makes perfect sense.  Chlorine reacts with the hair and skin, oxidizing it.  Vitamin C is a powerful and biologically safe antioxidant.  The antioxidant neutralizes the lingering chlorine so that it can be washed away.  

When I first started using SwimSpray, I felt better at work immediately.  Before I even stepped into my office, I noticed that I didn't smell like chlorine.  I didn't feel like I had a chemical film on my body.  And my hair felt lighter and less crunchy.  Chemically this makes sense—I had washed the chlorine away, so I didn't feel like I was covered in chlorine.  Here is a link explaining how to eliminate lingering chlorine by rinsing with vitamin C.

About the author: Dr. Andrew Chadeayne is a life-long swimmer. He created SwimSpray in 2010 to help fight chlorine’s side-effects on swimmers’ hair and skin. He holds degrees from Princeton (B.A.), George Washington (J.D.), and Cornell (Ph.D chemistry).  He is an inventor on numerous patents, including surface science, pharmaceuticals, and dechlorination.  Dr. Chadeayne lives in Bellevue, Washington where he works as a chemical patent consultant at Chadeayne LLC.



30 Responses

Steven Emenhiser

August 27, 2016

8/27/2016
Hello, I teach chemistry at a high school. I have an interesting problem that maybe you could help me with. The class that I teach in is an integrated lab and classroom so it has desks for students as well as lab benches and all of the lab safety equipment. There are two teachers that taught in these labs before me that were severely allergic to the classrooms. They experienced burning of the skin, severe sore throat, and difficulty breathing. In May of 2015 they actually both passed out while in the auditorium and were taken to the hospital. Hazmat came in and searched for the cause but was unable to find the cause; they released students for the day. Since no students were affected they resumed school the next day as normal. These teachers both tried to return to school but had severe allergic reactions as soon as they were anywhere in the building. They have had labs test the classrooms but were not able to find anything that had significantly higher concentrations than anywhere else in the building. I don’t have access to these results unfortunately. I have heard however that they have tested the blood of the teachers and the only unusual thing was high chlorine levels. I believe they were both severely sensitized to something in their labs. This may be something being discharged from the sinks drains, this may be something in the water, ect.
I have a minor allergy due to exposure to something in my room. I believe it is chlorine or sulfur or something of that nature. My recent allergy symptoms include: runny nose, ichy eyes, ichy skin, chest pressure, minor chest pain, sinus pressure, change of apatite, increased heartburn, indigestion ect. My symptoms worsen through the week (likely due to prolonged exposure and increased concentrations due to absorption in the skin, or by contact with the irritant on tables in the room). My symptoms are much worse when I am actually doing labs all day. This may be because of the more exposure to the chemicals or from water being drained in the pipes. I have had a minor reaction to other chemistry lab rooms so I believe that I have developed a sensitivity to chlorine. There is a unique and strong odor in my classroom but I’m not sure if it is chlorine, doesn’t quite smell like bleach.

I’ve seen a white powder or building up in the water and on surfaces where water from the lab has evaporated.

In the last few weeks I have noticed major symptoms that only occur on the days that I stay in the classroom for extended periods of time well into the evening. One major symptom that has been reoccurring is a sore throat that only occurs on the days that I stay late. Last week (2/2016) I stayed after school everyday preparing a lab for AP chem and I had a major sore throat. This sore throat dissipated over the weekend and then reappeared on Monday when I returned to school. I then had a dry cough for a day or two that finally dissipated on Wednesday.

On 2/11/16, my eye began to swell up and become very dry(almost to the point of requesting sick leave for the afternoon). This swelling dissipated after I went home and took a shower, it felt better in the morning today (which is why I was able to come in). About 10am today during class it became mildly swollen and dry again, along with a mild sore throat (lump in my throat with white patches that may indicate an immune response). The swelling and dryness has dissipated this afternoon around 6pm.

All of my symptoms were gone all summer long and did not return until our teacher work day two weeks ago (8/16/2016) where I spent 9 hours in my classroom. The only symptom that I may have experienced through the summer was more than usual heartburn and indigestion, but my family does seem to have acid reflux. The only other thing is the skin on my fingers. It has been peeling and flaking excessively. It is not red or swollen but the skin is very sensitive and flaky. I have noticed that when I bite my nails I have an immediate allergic reaction. I feel an irritation in my throat that almost makes me throw up (which also happens almost every day at the end of the school day). I have also been more fatigued than usual, I have a mild runny nose almost daily in the morning, I have trouble sleeping, my mouth feels very dry all the time. I feel like I have to hydrate more often, and my hands feel oily, which doesn’t seem to get cleaned with soap. At the end of a long day in the classroom I feel like there is an oily residue all over me that doesn’t easily come off. It does feel better after a hot shower but my hands remain oily.

The only treatments that I have done that seem to work include:

Hot shower
Soaking in Epsom salt
Gurgling hot salt water ( I did this to treat the white build up on my tongue today, which is probably dead bacteria due to an immune response and swelling of my throat)
Gurgling mouth wash
Brushing my tongue with toothpaste

Is there anything that I could maybe do or rinse with (such as vitamin C) that may treat and remove this chemical?

Is there anything I could use to absorb this material (possibly pour lye or baking soda or vitamin C down the drain or set in the lab somewhere?

Sorry that this was long, but I would appreciate any insight that you have!

Steven Emenhiser

August 27, 2016

8/27/2016
Hello, I teach chemistry at a high school. I have an interesting problem that maybe you could help me with. The class that I teach in is an integrated lab and classroom so it has desks for students as well as lab benches and all of the lab safety equipment. There are two teachers that taught in these labs before me that were severely allergic to the classrooms. They experienced burning of the skin, severe sore throat, and difficulty breathing. In May of 2015 they actually both passed out while in the auditorium and were taken to the hospital. Hazmat came in and searched for the cause but was unable to find the cause; they released students for the day. Since no students were affected they resumed school the next day as normal. These teachers both tried to return to school but had severe allergic reactions as soon as they were anywhere in the building. They have had labs test the classrooms but were not able to find anything that had significantly higher concentrations than anywhere else in the building. I don’t have access to these results unfortunately. I have heard however that they have tested the blood of the teachers and the only unusual thing was high chlorine levels. I believe they were both severely sensitized to something in their labs. This may be something being discharged from the sinks drains, this may be something in the water, ect.
I have a minor allergy due to exposure to something in my room. I believe it is chlorine or sulfur or something of that nature. My recent allergy symptoms include: runny nose, ichy eyes, ichy skin, chest pressure, minor chest pain, sinus pressure, change of apatite, increased heartburn, indigestion ect. My symptoms worsen through the week (likely due to prolonged exposure and increased concentrations due to absorption in the skin, or by contact with the irritant on tables in the room). My symptoms are much worse when I am actually doing labs all day. This may be because of the more exposure to the chemicals or from water being drained in the pipes. I have had a minor reaction to other chemistry lab rooms so I believe that I have developed a sensitivity to chlorine. There is a unique and strong odor in my classroom but I’m not sure if it is chlorine, doesn’t quite smell like bleach.

I’ve seen a white powder or building up in the water and on surfaces where water from the lab has evaporated.

In the last few weeks I have noticed major symptoms that only occur on the days that I stay in the classroom for extended periods of time well into the evening. One major symptom that has been reoccurring is a sore throat that only occurs on the days that I stay late. Last week (2/2016) I stayed after school everyday preparing a lab for AP chem and I had a major sore throat. This sore throat dissipated over the weekend and then reappeared on Monday when I returned to school. I then had a dry cough for a day or two that finally dissipated on Wednesday.

On 2/11/16, my eye began to swell up and become very dry(almost to the point of requesting sick leave for the afternoon). This swelling dissipated after I went home and took a shower, it felt better in the morning today (which is why I was able to come in). About 10am today during class it became mildly swollen and dry again, along with a mild sore throat (lump in my throat with white patches that may indicate an immune response). The swelling and dryness has dissipated this afternoon around 6pm.

All of my symptoms were gone all summer long and did not return until our teacher work day two weeks ago (8/16/2016) where I spent 9 hours in my classroom. The only symptom that I may have experienced through the summer was more than usual heartburn and indigestion, but my family does seem to have acid reflux. The only other thing is the skin on my fingers. It has been peeling and flaking excessively. It is not red or swollen but the skin is very sensitive and flaky. I have noticed that when I bite my nails I have an immediate allergic reaction. I feel an irritation in my throat that almost makes me throw up (which also happens almost every day at the end of the school day). I have also been more fatigued than usual, I have a mild runny nose almost daily in the morning, I have trouble sleeping, my mouth feels very dry all the time. I feel like I have to hydrate more often, and my hands feel oily, which doesn’t seem to get cleaned with soap. At the end of a long day in the classroom I feel like there is an oily residue all over me that doesn’t easily come off. It does feel better after a hot shower but my hands remain oily.

The only treatments that I have done that seem to work include:

Hot shower
Soaking in Epsom salt
Gurgling hot salt water ( I did this to treat the white build up on my tongue today, which is probably dead bacteria due to an immune response and swelling of my throat)
Gurgling mouth wash
Brushing my tongue with toothpaste

Is there anything that I could maybe do or rinse with (such as vitamin C) that may treat and remove this chemical?

Is there anything I could use to absorb this material (possibly pour lye or baking soda or vitamin C down the drain or set in the lab somewhere?

Sorry that this was long, but I would appreciate any insight that you have!

RM

August 23, 2016

I get some back and chest acne from time to time from being in the pool and am assuming it’s from the chlorine. Does this product help with acne breakouts?

P Gupta

August 21, 2016

My husband and 7 year old are sharing the same problem. With every trip to the pool resulted in acute sneezing to the point sleeping is impossible. Have you come across anyone with such problem? I could use all the help/advise.

peggy stokes

August 18, 2016

I have not been a pool for 40 yrs but started a wonderful water aerobics class and after the 3rd week developed the worst cough ever..had chest xrays and allergy test…I have the usual allergies as in the past but this start right after being exposed to chlorine..I have stopped the work out for a week and all is 90%better…my allergist says there is not test or serum for chlorine…I hate to stop as it is my 1st go at working out in yrs and I love it…Help if you can thank you

Sherry

August 17, 2016

Once you already have the rash how do I get rid of it? If I use swim spray will it eventually clear up on its own? I already take singular for health reasons.

Laurie

September 26, 2015

I’m glad that I came across this site and I will try SwimSpray and the other ideas listed for my sneezing and stuffy/runny nose. As for dry, itchy skin (and I have very sensitive skin), I found that applying a light layer of lotion BEFORE swimming really helps! Apply only an amount that your skin can absorb or it will just wash off in the pool. And, be sure to shower afterward and apply lotion again, if necessary.

Mary Jensen

September 03, 2015

I am having burning in my private area after using the pool.. I always shower right away but still have this problem. I am 72 . I like to swim daily for 30 minutes but now burning so bad I cant. Is it ok to use this spray in the vulva area?

joanne allen

August 19, 2015

Hello

My 10 yr. old grandson gets burning testicals every time he swims in our pool . Our water is as clear as day , plus we use little chlorine in case that was the problem.he was away all weekend & swam in hotel pool & was o.k. HELP.

Adah

July 25, 2015

I have an above ground pool in Arizona, And use an ozoninater to keep my pool clean, I have no problem with my skin but by July the weather is in the 100’s the pool gets some algae so I have to add chlorine, then my skin on my arms, back and upper lags break out and are very itchy. What can I do?

Gavin

July 11, 2015

Hey I have a rash but I am wondering if it will work for me because my body and your body are to different things

Andrew Chadeayne

June 23, 2015

Hi Steph -
I’m sorry to hear about your toddler’s chlorine problems. Definitely try using SwimSpray to help with the problem. There’s not reason that it shouldn’t be used on an 18 month old.

Steph c

June 17, 2015

I have an 18 month old who I suspect is sensitive to chlorine (but not bromine). Any reason I wouldn’t be able to use swimspray on a toddler?

Andrew Chadeayne

April 17, 2015

Hi Travis –
My guess would be that the sensitive skin in and around your nose is getting chlorinated and causing your symptoms. Only a doctor can tell you for sure. If it were me, I would try applying SwimSpray to your irritated nose area after swimming. Then, flush/rinse it out. If your problem is caused by a chlorine sensitivity, getting the chlorine off should help your problem.
Good luck,
Andrew

Travis bermingham

April 16, 2015

I swim once a week,just swam this morning and have sneezed all day.Nose is dripping like a tap.Seems to get worse as the day goes.Took cold and flue tablets and has done nothing.I love to swim but are getting fed every time I swim.Need help please.

Marcia Barry

April 14, 2015

I will order this from SwimOutlet since I am about to make an order. Long time Masters swimmer; have developed a rash on arms, neck and behind knees. Trying to eliminate causes; antihistamines not working so trying cortisone creams. BTW—all nose allergies from cholrine can be 99% eliminated if you use nose clips—hated it at the beginning but the nose cleared up after my grueling 1 1/2 hour practices.

javier

March 13, 2015

The nose Clip solved the problema for me. It also helps to rinse with a saline solution after swimming

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Marilyn

February 19, 2015

I seem to have a reaction associated with Benicar, which I take for high blood pressure, and the chlorine. I break out in extremely itchy, red small bumps on my arms, legs, hands and back. I did not have this problem with chlorine when not on the Benicar.

Charles Brulle

February 10, 2015

I work as a lifeguard at a local indoor pools and the chlorine smell stays with me all day. I sometimes itch for hours after the day is over.

Andrew Chadeayne

February 03, 2015

Hi Zach – I think your exposure time and the specific pool’s chemistry will affect how much the chlorine reacts with your hair and skin. In any event, using SwimSpray immediately after swimming, should get that chlorine off of you and prevent the cause of your problems (which is having lots of chlorine on your skin long after swimming). Good luck, Andrew

Andrew Chadeayne

February 03, 2015

Hi Jim,
You can buy SwimSpray here, on our webpage or at any of the partners listed on our “Retailers” tab. I would suggest rinsing your nose with SwimSpray during your post-shower routine. That should get the chlorine off the sensitive area and hopefully prevent the problem so that you don’t need to take Allegra to treat the symptoms.

Jim

January 15, 2015

I used to have a runny nose for hours after swimming in an outdoor pool and I started to take 24 hr Allegra. It really works well. I just started my winter triathlon training in an outdoor pool and my skin is itching like crazy. Where can I get SwimSpray?

Zach

November 19, 2014

I’ve swam for about a year and had no chlorine effects at all. But I joined a new team this year and spend a little under two hours a day on week days in a pool which is more than my usual forty minutes every few days from before. My face is red, dry, and hurts when I touch it or stretch my facial muscles too much. How can I get rid of these symptoms as quickly and effectively as possible?

Gillian

October 23, 2014

I have red blotchy itchy face with raised bumps after swimming. Can I use this on my sensitive face?

Elena

April 25, 2014

I am training for a triathlon. My big problem is feeling like I have a bad cold and feeling congested and drippy for a couple of days. Its really bad. Do you have any suggestions for that?

Liz Lovas

November 20, 2013

I believe I do have a chlorine sensitivity. In my case it brings on sneezing and a plugged up nose. You would think I was sick with a cold. My skin is a little itchy but not bad. I have tried numerous antihistamines and nothing really works. As long as I do not injest the water I don’t get sick. Which means I will have to stop swimming lengths.

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