Have you ever experienced an itchy sensation after swimming in a pool? It’s a common occurrence and can be caused by various factors.
This article will explore the possible causes of post-swim itchiness and offer tips on preventing or alleviating it. Whether you’re a frequent pool goer or just an occasional swimmer, understanding the cause of your itchiness can help you enjoy your time in the water without discomfort.
Here’s what you need to know.
5 Most Common Reasons You May Be Itchy After the Pool
While there may be many reasons you’re itchy after getting out of a pool, some are more common than others. Learning about and avoiding the five reasons listed below will go a long way in keeping yourself and other swimmers itch-free.
1. Chlorine Rash
Maintaining proper chlorine levels in the pool is important to ensure the water is clean and safe to swim in. However, if the chlorine levels are too high, it can cause skin irritation and dryness, leading to a prickly sensation.
The two major factors that contribute to a pool having chlorine levels that are too high are:
- Overuse of chlorine: Adding too much chlorine to the pool can cause the levels to become too high.
- Poor circulation: If the pool has poor circulation, the chlorine may not be evenly distributed throughout the water, leading to higher levels in some areas.
Treatment options for itchiness caused by high chlorine levels include:
- Adjust the chlorine levels: If you suspect the chlorine levels in the pool are too high, you can try adjusting them by adding a chlorine neutralizing product to the water, partially draining and refilling the pool, heating the pool and/or simply letting sunshine degrade the chlorine.
- Using moisturizers: Moisturizing your skin after swimming in a pool can help to alleviate dryness and itchiness.
- Showering and washing your hair: Rinsing off after swimming in a pool can help remove chlorine and other chemicals from your skin and hair, reducing itchiness.
- Taking an antihistamine: If you are experiencing an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the pool water, an antihistamine may help to reduce the itch and other allergy symptoms.
2. Pool Chemical Imbalance
We’ve already discussed how chlorine can cause a rash. But other potential chemical imbalances can also cause you to itch after getting out of the pool.
Keeping the bacteria out of a pool requires a careful balance of chemicals. An improper chemical balance can cause cloudy pool water and itchy swimmers.
These imbalances include the following.
Too Much Acidity
If the pool water is too acidic (pH below 7.2), it can cause skin irritation, dryness, and itchiness. This is because acidic water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. Acidic water can also corrode pool surfaces and equipment, leading to damage over time.
Several factors can cause the pH level of pool water to become too low, including:
- Rainwater: Rainwater is naturally acidic and can lower pool water’s pH level if allowed to enter it.
- Swimmers: The urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids of swimmers can lower the pH level of pool water.
- Other chemicals: Certain chemicals, such as muriatic acid, can lower the pH level of pool water if misused.
To prevent the pH level of pool water from becoming too low, it is important to test the water regularly and add chemicals, such as soda ash or sodium bicarbonate, to raise the pH as needed. It is also essential to keep the pool clean and free of debris and prevent rainwater from entering. If you are experiencing skin irritation or other problems after swimming in a pool, you should test the water to determine the cause.
Too Much Alkalinity
Pool water’s total alkalinity refers to the concentration of alkaline substances, such as bicarbonates, carbonates, and hydroxides. If the total alkalinity is too high (above 120 ppm), the water may become too alkaline, which can cause skin irritation and dryness. Alkaline water can also corrode pool surfaces and equipment, leading to damage over time.
Some of the causes of high alkalinity in a pool include:
- Improper use of chemicals: Adding too much baking soda or soda ash to the pool can raise the total alkalinity.
- Water evaporation: When water evaporates from the pool, it leaves behind dissolved minerals, which can raise the total alkalinity.
- Leaks: If the pool is leaking, it can cause the total alkalinity to become too high due to the presence of minerals in the groundwater that seeps into the pool.
To prevent the pool water’s total alkalinity from becoming too high, test the water regularly and add chemicals, such as muriatic acid or dry acid, to lower it as needed. It is important to properly maintain the pool, including checking for leaks and properly balancing the chemicals. If you are experiencing skin irritation or other problems after swimming in a pool, you should have the water tested to determine the cause.
The treatment for itchiness caused by improper chemical balances in the pool is the same for having too high of a chlorine level.
3. Swimmer’s Itch
Swimmer’s itch, also known as cercarial dermatitis, is a skin irritation caused by exposure to certain parasites found in bodies of fresh water, such as lakes and pools. These parasites are released from infected snails and can burrow into the skin of humans and other animals when they come into contact with the water.
The rash is typically red and bumpy and may be accompanied by swelling and a burning sensation. It usually appears within a few hours or up to several days after exposure and may last for several days to a week.
Cercarial dermatitis is not severe and usually goes away within a few days. However, it can be uncomfortable and may require treatment to alleviate the symptoms.
Treatment options may include:
- Using OTC creams or ointments: Over-the-counter creams or ointments, such as hydrocortisone, can help to reduce the itch and inflammation.
- Taking antihistamines: Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine or cetirizine, can help to reduce the itch and other allergy symptoms.
- Applying cold compresses: A cold compress to the affected area can help reduce swelling and alleviate the itch.
- Avoiding further exposure: To prevent cercarial dermatitis, it is essential to avoid swimming in bodies of fresh water where the parasites are present. If you swim in these areas, be sure to shower and towel dry immediately afterward to remove any parasites on your skin.
Poorly maintained pools can become a playground for bacteria and algae. Bacteria can cause itchiness if they come into contact with your skin. While chlorine kills bacteria and other contaminants in pool water, it is still possible for them to be present if the water is not properly maintained or if swimmers have introduced bacteria into the water.
This is particularly common in hot tubs, where bacteria thrive. The resulting condition, hot tub folliculitis, is usually caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can thrive in warm, moist environments.
There are several ways that bacteria can enter a pool, including:
- Swimmers: Swimmers can introduce bacteria into the pool through their urine, sweat, and other bodily fluids.
- Contaminated water: Bacteria can grow if the pool water is not treated correctly or becomes contaminated with dirt or debris.
- Poor maintenance: If the pool is not properly maintained, including regularly testing and adjusting the chemical levels, bacteria can grow in the water.
To treat hot tub folliculitis, a healthcare professional may prescribe antibiotics or recommend over-the-counter creams or ointments to reduce the symptoms. It is important to follow the treatment plan as directed to ensure that the infection is properly treated. If you have hot tub folliculitis, it’s best to avoid hydrocortisone cream, as steroids can worsen the problem.
5. Swimming in Saltwater
The salt in saltwater can cause itchiness due to its drying effect on the skin. When the skin becomes dry, it can become itchy and uncomfortable.
The salt can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. This can be particularly problematic if you have sensitive skin or spend a lot of time in the water.
To prevent or alleviate itchiness caused by this, it is important to keep the skin hydrated. This can be done by rinsing off after swimming, using moisturizers to replenish the skin’s natural oils, and avoiding long periods of exposure to saltwater. It is also essential to protect the skin from the sun, as sun exposure can further dry out the skin and increase the risk of itchiness.
Itch No More
We’ve discussed several common causes of itchiness after swimming in a pool, including exposure to chlorine and other chemicals, bacteria in the water, and skin irritation caused by saltwater or sun. To prevent or alleviate these issues, rinse off after swimming, use moisturizers to hydrate the skin, and properly maintain the pool water by testing and adjusting the chemical levels.
In addition to these steps, use a quality skimmer net to keep the pool clean and debris-free to prevent skin irritation. Debris in the pool can harbor bacteria and other contaminants, which can cause skin irritation and other issues. To learn more about pool maintenance, contact us today.
Disclaimer: Pool ownership and maintenance is very complicated, and we know every situation is unique. While we’ve done our best to cover the best practices here, we encourage you to reach out to ProTuff directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions you may have.