Getting a rash from salt water pools can put a damper on your summer plans. By jumping in a soapy shower after your swim, and quickly washing your bathing suit, you'll increase your chances of avoiding this condition.
What Causes Swimming Pool Rash?
Jumping in to a clear, cool swimming pool is one of the best parts of summer. You immerse your entire body in the water, giving you a brief respite from summer's steamy heat and humidity. Sometime afterward, you might notice a rash or bumps on your skin after swimming in pool.
As the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia notes, you might have been infected by a virus, parasite or bacteria. These tiny organisms can take up residence in inland lakes, ocean waters and even poorly maintained pools and hot tubs. When you swim in that water, they can find breaks in your skin, which raises your risk of contracting a swimming-related infection or a rash from the salt water pool.
These common conditions have catchy names like "swimmer's itch" and "seabather's eruption." The well-known term "hot tub rash" (or pseudomonas "dermatitis") describes the same symptoms, often including a rash from a salt water pool. Regardless of the condition's name, you're likely to develop itchy red bumps on the skin after swimming in pool. These bumps can also lead to blisters or burns.
To decrease the chances that you'll become affected by hot tub rash, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you immediately remove your swimsuit after leaving the water. Next, take a soapy shower to minimize the chances of a salt water pool rash. Throw your swimsuit in the wash to eradicate hitch-hiking organisms that could cause bumps on the skin after swimming in a pool.
Itchy Skin After Chlorinated Pool
Maybe you're a devoted lap swimmer, or you simply enjoy taking a dip in your neighborhood pool several times a week. After your most recent trip, however, your skin has developed a reddish rash; and you have itchy skin after swimming in chlorinated pool. You wonder if you might have developed an allergy to the chlorine that pool operators use to clean and disinfect the water.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, you don't have a chlorine allergy, but it's certainly possible that you have "irritant dermatitis." In other words, your skin has become overly-sensitive to the chlorine, and you have itchy skin after swimming in a chlorinated pool. Chlorine can also make ongoing dermatitis worse, and can really dry out your skin.
Because you haven't gotten itchy skin after swimming in a chlorinated pool before, you wonder why this chlorine sensitivity has popped up now. It's possible that, due to well-publicized health scares, the pool operator has added more chlorine to the pool chemical mix. Try swimming in a pool that contains decreased amounts of chlorine, and see if that helps to minimize your symptoms.
To ease your current discomfort, and ideally remove any traces of the irritating substance, wash your affected skin with clean, fresh water. Your physician may prescribe a corticosteroid cream that can provide relief. Follow the application instructions exactly, and don't use more of the cream than is indicated.
Salt Water Pools Affect Eczema
If you're coping with eczema, swimming in a salt water pool can produce two considerably different effects. While some eczema patients find salt water very calming and soothing to their skin, exposure results in noticeable pain for others. Regardless of your swimming environment, the National Eczema Association provides some useful guidelines.
About an hour before you jump in the water, slather your body with cream or a light ointment. Drink plenty of water, as that will hydrate your body and your skin. After you get back on dry land, replenish the fluids you lost while you traversed the pool or floated in the sun.
To decrease the chances of irritation, immediately shower with lukewarm water, making it cooler if needed. Avoid using hot water, as that will likely cause you discomfort. Within three minutes after your shower, apply a thick layer of moisturizer to provide your skin with much-needed hydration.
Can Baking Soda Cure Eczema?
Eczema, also known as atopic eczema or Atopic dermatitis, is a long-lived, self-perpetuating skin inflammation that can persist throughout your lifetime. Harvard Health Publishing states that this vicious cycle begins with itchy skin, which you'll likely be tempted to scratch. Scratching further irritates the skin, which causes a rash, and the cycle goes on.
Eczema can also produce other skin-related symptoms. Your rash can become painful and swollen, and fluid may seep out on occasion. The rash can also take on a crusty appearance. Eczema can suddenly worsen, or it can heal and temporarily disappear. Some patients have been lucky to have their eczema vanish permanently.
Although mild eczema often responds to topical corticosteroids, the American Academy of Dermatology stresses that more severe cases require short-duration courses of stronger corticosteroids. Other eczema treatment options include light therapy and powerful medications that work throughout your body. Unfortunately, no eczema cure currently exists.
When considering alternative eczema treatments, the Peconic Bay Medical Center notes that baking soda has given some patients a respite from the awful itching. Mixing the baking soda with a spritz of water, and applying directly to the skin, can provide relief. Or, sprinkle one-half cup of baking soda into your bath water, and enjoy a relaxing soak in the tub.
How to Treat Swimmer's Itch
Maddening "swimmer's itch" is a warm-weather ailment affecting swimmers in lakes and other inland bodies of water, notes pediatrician Jennifer Troiano of Washington State University. Caused by miniscule parasites that burrow under your skin, this condition signals the body's immune system to respond without delay.
Within several hours after the incident, you'll notice red pimple-like spots, along with tingling and itching. Although the bumps don't spread, and the condition isn't contagious, you're likely to keep itching for at least several days (and possibly longer). Dr. Troiano urges you not to scratch, as that makes the itching worse, and can also trigger a secondary infection.
Your physician might have a tough time diagnosing swimmer's itch, as this pesky ailment can mimic poison ivy and other skin conditions, notes the Mayo Clinic. Also, there's no definitive test that will confirm that swimmer's itch is the culprit. So, your doctor will rely on their clinical knowledge to make the diagnosis. If swimmer's itch is the problem, it should gradually disappear in about a week.
Until then, applying an over-the-counter anti-itch cream may help. Try covering the affected skin with a baking soda-and-water paste. Soaking in a bath containing a small amount of baking soda, oatmeal or Epsom salts might also provide relief.
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: "Sneaky Summer Skin Infections You Can Pick Up at the Pool"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Facts About 'Hot Tub Rash'"
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Chlorine 'Allergy'"
- National Eczema Association: "Swimming with Eczema: What You Should Know Before You Take the Plunge"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Atopic Dermatitis and Eczema"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Can Eczema Be Cured?"
- Peconic Bay Medical Center: "Home Remedies for Irritated Skin"
- Washington State University: "Swimmer’s Itch Thriving in Region’s Hot Weather: How to Duck It"
- Mayo Clinic: "Swimmer’s Itch"