Swimming pools are a big part of summer fun with family and friends. After all, swimming is an effective form of exercise, as well as a way to relax and relieve the stresses of the day. But to safely enjoy these benefits, you need to protect yourself from potential causes of a swimming pool rash.
When you get a rash after hanging out poolside, a few potential culprits exist. These range from chlorine rash allergies to "pox" viruses. Taking careful note of your symptoms may help pinpoint the cause of your swimming pool rash.
Treating Chlorine Sensitivity
A suspected chlorine rash is rarely a literal allergic response, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. But many people with this level of chlorine sensitivity develop a specific type of contact dermatitis from swimming in treated pools. You may have hives or crusty lesions, along with a runny nose, coughing, or trouble breathing.
If an allergist confirms this type of chlorine rash, she may prescribe a corticosteroid cream. In addition, make sure to rinse off as soon as you get out of the pool if you know you're sensitive to pool chemicals.
Coping with an "RWI"
The Centers for Disease Control warns that pools and other types of water are potential breeding grounds for recreational water illness, or RWI. You might pick up an RWI rash from a pool or hot tub, as well as natural bodies of water like lakes or oceans. Also known as "swimmer's itch" or "hot tub rash," the skin reaction is caused by contamination relating to either bacterial growth or chemicals.
Symptoms of swimming pool rash include an itchy rash that might have blisters, occurring up to 48 hours after exposure to the pseudomonas bacteria. These itchy skin rashes might have small red bumps. This rash might appear all over the body, or only on the arms, legs or the trunk of the body and might look similar to chickenpox.
Without treatment, a swimming pool rash will usually disappear on its own within about seven days, However, if the skin becomes infected, consult your physician for advice and treatment. Over-the-counter antihistamines and soothing anti-itch treatments such as colloidal oatmeal baths or cool compresses might help ease the itching. Bathing in water to which baking soda is added will also soothe the skin.
Ward Off the "Poxvirus"
It sounds like a wizarding spell, and certainly the poxvirus known as Molluscum contagiosum can make you feel downright cursed. This type of rash from a pool or hot tub session doesn't actually come from the water. But because skin contact and touching infected towels are so common in swimming situations, these common Molluscum triggers are considered a type of swimming pool rash.
These itchy, raised roundish bumps can be found virtually anywhere on the body, depending on the point of contact. Seeing a doctor is your recommended course of action, because the rash can last months or even years without treatment. Freezing or scraping the bumps, or applying a prescription ointment are the most common treatments, according to Mayo Clinic.
Look Before You Leap!
Proper pool maintenance — including appropriate chlorination levels to fight against bacterial growth — is a key factor in preventing swimming pool rash. Test your home pool at least once daily. Any heated water needs frequent testing because bacteria grow more in warm water, potentially leading to a rash from a pool or hot tub.
Before jumping into any pool, look for water that is clear enough to see through at least 10 feet of water. In addition, avoid sharing towels, or coming into contact with people who may have a rash.
- Centers for Disease Control: "Swimmer's Itch"
- Centers for Disease Control: "Recreational Water Illness"
- Mayo Clinic: "Molluscum Contagiosum"
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Chlorine Allergy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Swimmer's Itch Treatment"
- Centers for Disease Control: "How to Swim Healthy"