Keeping your hot tub water clean is essential in ensuring its quality and safety, and to do this requires the use of different hot tub water sanitizers like chlorine. Despite being a powerful disinfectant and making our hot water safer to swim or lounge in, exposure to excessive amounts of chlorine can cause certain negative side effects on some people like a skin condition known as chlorine rash. But what exactly is chlorine rash, how is it different from other types of water-related rashes and chlorine allergy, and more importantly how do you avoid and treat it?
What Is Chlorine Rash?
Chlorine rash is a skin condition that results from too much exposure to chlorine found in hot tubs or swimming pools. It doesn’t matter whether you have a wood-fired hot tub or an inflatable tub like Intex hot tubs. It’s not the type or brand of hot tubs that cause chlorine rash but the amount of chlorine present in the water. Also, getting chlorine rash does not mean that you have chlorine allergy, it only means that you are sensitive to the chemical.
Not all people will suffer from the said condition, but those who do will experience symptoms like itchy, red, swollen, or scaly patches of skin. Chlorine can also wash away the natural oils on the skin leaving it dry or chapped. At worst, sores and blisters may develop or the skin may crack and even bleed.
Traces of chlorine may also linger in the skin after showering, this continued exposure can cause prolonged irritation. For some people, the symptoms can manifest soon after swimming while for others it may occur several days after repeated exposure to the said chemical.
Because the symptoms are pretty similar, it is easy to confuse chlorine rash from other types of rashes, namely swimmer’s itch and heat rash.
Chlorine Rash vs. Swimmer’s Itch
It is easy to confuse chlorine rash with a skin condition called the swimmer’s itch. They have similar signs and symptoms, but the cause is very different. While chlorine rash is caused by sensitivity to the said chemical, the swimmer’s itch is caused by parasites swimming in the water. These parasites can burrow into the skin and result in small pimple-like blotches and bumps.
Differentiating between chlorine rash and swimmer’s itch is pretty easy, you simply need to identify where you’ve been swimming and that will usually determine what you have. For instance, if you’ve been dipping in your Coleman hot tub only (or whatever brand of hot tub you have) then it is likely that you’re experiencing chlorine rash because there shouldn’t be any parasite in the water to cause swimmer’s itch. On the other hand, if you went swimming in a lake, river or any other body of fresh water then it’s likely that the rash is a swimmer’s itch.
Chlorine Rash vs. Heat rash
Another skin condition which many people mistake for chlorine rash is heat rash. A person can experience heat rash by simply sitting in a hot tub for too long. The symptoms are similar to that of chlorine rash with small, itchy and prickly bumps on the skin.
Heat is usually the result of the bacteria known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacteria grows in the hot tub water because the high temperatures have broken the chlorine which then allows the bacteria to thrive. In that case, the required levels of hot tub sanitizers fall below the acceptable levels to keep the water clean.
So although both chlorine rash and heat rash can come from using a hot tub, they are different in the sense that the former is caused by sensitivity towards chlorine while the latter is a bacterial infection.
Chlorine Rash Prevention
There are several ways of preventing chlorine rash. For one, you should take a break from using the hot tub now and then to give your skin enough time to heal. Repeated exposure will only irritate the skin even more. You can also avoid using overly chlorinated hot tubs. You can test the hot tub water for chlorine levels or you can use a hot tub Ozonator to minimize the amount of chlorine you need to keep the hot tub water sanitized.
After using the hot tub, take a shower immediately after using the hot tub to remove any trace of chlorine from your skin. Remove and wash your swimsuit properly and change into loose and dry clothes.
Chlorine Rash Treatment
Most cases of chlorine rash can be easily treated with over-the-counter products like corticosteroid creams or those that contain diphenhydramine. There are also body washes and topical lotions which can help to remove traces of chlorine on the skin and at the same time provide a soothing effect from the rash. In any case, avoid lotions that are heavily perfumed since they may contain chemicals that can further irritate an already itchy skin.
If your chlorine rash does not respond to the creams and lotions mentioned above, it is highly recommended that you visit a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially true if you haven’t used the hot tub and have had no further contact with chlorine for a while now. They can help by prescribing stronger creams or by conducting further tests since the rash you’re experiencing may have other underlying causes. Regular consultation with your doctor or an allergist is also recommended especially if you plan to continue using chlorinated hot tubs or pools despite experiencing chlorine rash or if you have chlorine allergy.
Q: Can chlorine rash spread?
Like swimmer’s itch or even chlorine allergy, chlorine rash isn’t contagious and won’t spread from one person to another. That said, you don’t have to worry about sharing a 2-person hot tub or any other large hot tub with someone who exhibits the signs and symptoms of a chlorine rash.
Q: Does chlorine irritate eczema?
Some people suffering from eczema often complain that exposure to chlorine aggravates their condition. However, some say otherwise and claim that taking a dip in chlorinated hot tubs or pools has a soothing effect on their skin that’s similar to a bleach bath. It appears that it all depends on the severity of the condition.
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Don’t let the thought of chlorine rash prevent you from having a fun and relaxing time in the hot tub. As mentioned earlier, not all people will be affected by this condition, and most of these rashes are not serious and can easily be treated with over-the-counter medications. Still, if you experience rashes that simply won’t go away even after a few days of not using the hot tub, consider visiting a doctor right away to get stronger medications or determine other underlying causes like chlorine allergy.
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- Chlorine Allergy, American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology