Do a fast Internet search on the subject “Does Chlorine Irritate Eczema” and you will come up with some contradictory answers. The best one could be “maybe” and the second best is “some types of eczema” and the third is “under some circumstances.”
So…here’s what the research generally indicates, which pretty much boils down to:
- What is eczema?
- What triggers it?
- How long have you had it?
- How does your skin react to showering or bathing in city water?
- What other allergies do you have?
Chlorine – The Good and Bad
Chlorine bleach kills bacteria. It also acts as a drying agent and can remove oils from the skin. This can be both good news and bad news for eczema sufferers.
According to the National Eczema Association, eczema is a sort of umbrella term for dry, itchy skin conditions. Eczema comes in several different kinds and in varying degrees of severity, ranging from an itchy rash on a baby’s bottom to a persistent, bumpy rash that often appears on the inside of your elbows, back of your knees, on your stomach or back, and can become bad enough for the skin to break and ooze.
Types of Eczema
The medical names for different kinds of eczema include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis. Your doctor can help you determine what kind of eczema you have, and suggest treatments.
I have written a very detailed article on all the different types of eczema in this article.
Eczema – The Good News and the Bad News
The good news is that eczema is not contagious. It’s a skin condition that’s peculiar to you – although there are many other people who have similar conditions. It isn’t something that will make it mandatory that you should call into work, although an extreme case could make you sufficiently uncomfortable that you might want to.
Eczema and Swimming
Since chlorine kills bacteria and it can dry out your skin, until you have experienced it you’ll have sort of an indifferent mindset as to whether it will make your eczema worse or better. For people with atopic dermatitis, there’s a very good chance that swimming in a public pool will make it worse. If you’re suffering from some types of contact dermatitis, such as grass itch or a reaction to tomato plants, it might help to wash away the irritant. However, some people get contact dermatitis from chlorine.
Can Swimming Help?
Scratchsleeves, a blog and a product developed by parents of a child with eczema, writes that swimming can be good for eczema babies. The website blogger explains that babies that are prone to eczema sometimes are also prone to asthma. Swimming is a good exercise and helps their lungs develop.
Salt Water Swimming for Eczema
Salt water swimming tends to be better for people with eczema than swimming in a pool that has a lot of chlorine. You might not always be able to find a salt-water swimming pool, and you might live a long way from the beach. In that case, add Epsom salts to a child size wading pool, and fill it with filtered water.
Itching after a Shower or Bath
If you feel itchy after a shower or bath, then you might be experiencing a problem with chlorine. Many city water systems use chlorine to kill bacteria that could make people sick. No one wants the kind of bacteria that can live in untreated water or a return to the summer plagues and illnesses that used to happen in cities, but itching and feeling uncomfortable after bathing is like adding insult to injury.
Install a whole-house filter to remove chlorine and other problem contents from the water that comes into your house. If that’s not possible, purchase a filter that can be attached to the bathtub or shower outlet. Rainshower bath balls purport to remove chlorine from your bath water by converting it to harmless chloride or you can use vitamin C to neutralize the chlorine.
Know Your Triggers
There are many kinds of eczema which can be triggered by all sorts of different things. Just being overly warm can trigger a reaction for some people. Cat or dog fur can do the job for others. Grass, tomato plants or certain weeds can sometimes cause itchy rashes that are considered to be contact dermatitis, which falls under the umbrella term, eczema.
Find a Soothing Cream or Lotion
Find a soothing cream or lotion that works for you. If you’ve had eczema for a while, you probably already know that not all hand lotions are effective or even a good idea. This is one of those places where you will want to work with your doctor to find solutions that work for you. Many people just use plain old petroleum jelly while others have had good luck with aloe vera gel or with glycerin.
Locate a Sunscreen That Doesn’t Irritate
While trying to protect sensitive skin from sunburn, some people find that sunscreen can set off an eczema reaction. Before spending a day at the beach, it’s a good idea to locate a moisturizer that can be applied before putting on sunscreen and a sunscreen that your skin will tolerate. The moisturizer helps create a barrier between your skin and the sunscreen – and both can help reduce your skin’s interaction with the chlorinated water you might be swimming in.
Back to the Beginning
So what’s the real answer to “Does chlorine make eczema worse”? For some people, it really does make it worse, but for some others, it might actually help. Since eczema is an umbrella term for red, itchy skin that sometimes blisters or oozes, it really depends on what triggers your eczema. For some people, chlorine bleach is a trigger. For others, a shower, a tub bath or a dip in the pool might actually help since chlorine kills bacteria that could cause infections or other complications.
You and Your Doctor
Like many medical conditions that fall under an umbrella term, you and your doctor will need to explore the specific triggers for your eczema to know whether you are sensitive to chlorine or not.