Chlorine Rash: Facts and Treatment

Summer is the best time for swimming. However, having sensitive skin might limit your options when it comes to trying to cool down. So many irritants and allergens around when the temperature is quite high. Even in pools. People with sensitive skin have to watch out for chlorine.

Chlorine has a lot of benefits. It is used to disinfect water to make it safer to swim in to or to get in a hot tub. It is also added to cleaning solutions. However, frequent exposure to chlorine can have some negative effects, especially to people with sensitive skin. The element can be drying, and drying as we all know, lead to irritation even if you have been previously swimming in chlorine and have not had skin problems. 

Chlorine Rash Symptoms

People who are sensitive to chlorine get chlorine rash. The symptoms include:

  • Itch, red rashes
  • Scaling or crusting on the surface
  • Small bumps or hives
  • Swollen or tender skin

Sometimes, the eyes get irritated from chlorine exposure. It can also irritate the respiratory tract. You may notice frequent sneezing or coughing during and even after exposure to chlorine. 

Is chlorine rash different from swimmer’s itch?

Chlorine rash is a reaction caused by chlorine exposure, while swimmer’s itch is caused by microscopic parasites that live in freshwater. These parasites usually come from snails, and they can burrow into the skin, causing pimple-like responses. The medical name for this is cercarial dermatitis.

Identifying whether it’s a chlorine rash or swimmer’s itch often depends on where you have been swimming. Also remember, if a pool is well-maintained, it should not have these parasites.


Some people who often experience chlorine rash have been repeatedly exposed to chlorine. The immune system identifies the substance as foreign, causing inflammation and irritation. Sometimes, even after rinsing or bathing, some element of the chlorine remains on the skin. Excessive use of chlorine in pools can be irritating to the skin.


Over-the-counter products are usually effective in treating these rashes. These include corticosteroid creams, such as hydrocortisone. However, hydrocortisone is not advised by doctors to be used on the face. If one experiences hives, a diphenhydramine cream or an oral medication such as Benadryl, can soothe the skin. Use unscented lotions as fragrance can add to the potential irritation from chlorine.

Get immediate medical attention if you get severe symptoms such as hives that would not subside, or difficulty breathing. Usually, an allergist can help diagnose and treat further problems related to chlorine rash. If your rash does not respond to OTC treatments, see an allergist so that he or she can properly prescribe stronger treatments.