Chlorine Rash

August 29, 2014 | 0

The elevations that occur on the skin after an episode of contact with chlorine either in a swimming pool or from other sources is called chlorine rash. It is commonly known as swimming pool rash because many such incidences are witnessed after exposure to chlorinated water in swimming pools. This rash develops on your skin typically after few hours of swimming.

Chlorine rash is in the form of highly pruritic lesions causing itchiness of the skin. This rash is caused by a hypersensitive reaction of your skin components to chlorine. It tends to subside spontaneously in a few days. Chlorine is a disinfectant of bacteria and other organisms which can lead to development of diseases if you get an exposure. This property forms the basis of chlorine being used in waters that are used by the public.

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For example water in the swimming pool would contain many infective pathogens if it was not to be disinfected by chlorine. Other waters where this disinfectant is used are water parks and hot bath tubs. Normally, people without a hyperactive immune system do not experience this rash after exposure. Only a small percentage of the population would develop a rash and even severe symptoms after the exposure. The exposure dose directly affects the severity of the symptoms. These people are described as allergic to chlorine.

Causes of chlorine rash

The major cause is chlorine exposure. This can be classified as acute or chronic exposure. These two types have different presentation pattern. Acute exposure to chlorine or its byproducts mainly results in allergic reactions and irritation to the skin. Strong skin irritants can develop when these byproducts combine with organic matter such as urine which is readily available in public swimming pools. These irritants include monochloramine, dichloramines and trichloramine. Chronic exposure results in more serious manifestations.

Signs and symptoms of chlorine rash

Ocular irritation which is commonly accompanied grittiness and pruritic eyes is the common symptom. Due to the itchiness your sclera of your eye may turn red. The skin may display dryness, itchiness and scaly appearance with a rash that may lead to peeling of your skin’s epidermis layer. This layer is the outermost and is protective to the beneath skin structures.

Swollen eyelids, reddening, excessive tear production and visual disturbances may occur due to an inflammatory condition called allergic conjunctivitis. Other non-frequent symptoms include sneezing and coughing. Abdominal manifestations include vomiting, abdominal cramps, pain, and nausea. A burning sensation may also be experienced in the gastrointestinal tract. Respiratory problems include short-lived difficulty in breathing and chest pain.

In chronic exposure, the manifestations are more serious than in acute exposure. This is due to the accumulative effect of the systemic abnormalities in your body. Individual who are chronically exposed include those work in chlorine manufacturing companies without proper protective mechanisms, chlorination and cleaning of swimming pools, cloth bleaching firms and water treatment plants. These individuals are more predisposed to develop chronic respiratory manifestations such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, chronic bronchitis and bronchioectasis. This is because of increasing hypersensitivity of the epithelium lining your respiratory tract.

There is also hypertrophy or increase in size of the muscles of the respiratory tract further obstructing the airway. Children are at a higher risk of developing ear infections such as otitis media. Atopic individuals, which are people with a genetic predisposition to allergic reactions, are more than 10 times greater risk of these reactions.

Other manifestations apart from the respiratory tract include skin manifestations. Chlorine rash which is an acute condition can develop into a chronic type called persistent dermatitis. It should be noted however that production plants have implemented protective measures and chronic exposure cases are rare.

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Though health complications rarely occur, they are potentially fatal when they manifest.  Reactive airway dysfunction syndrome, RADs is an airway disease that is similar to asthma. It is caused by single large exposure to airway irritants such as chlorine.  It is characterized by hardening of bronchial wall, hypertrophy of airways and persistent inflammation. Symptoms are hard to manage and may include breathlessness and wheezing.

Reactive upper airway dysfunction syndrome, RUDS, is an analog of chronic rhinitis. The reaction is limited to the upper airway passages. There are no breathing problems but sinusitis and rash are common features. Allergic contact dermatitis is the last possible complication. This develops on the skin due to hyperactive immune response in the skin.

Treatment and prevention of chlorine rash

There are no definitive methods of managing this condition. The best method of management is therefore prevention. Medications that reduce the severity of symptoms can be used. In ocular manifestations, eye drops which contain anti-inflammatory effects are used. On the skin, application of immune suppressing drugs such as hydrocortisone can be applied. Because this condition is as a result of the immune system, systemic drugs that reduce the responsiveness of the system are largely used as prophylactic and management agents.

Preventive measures include use of corticosteroids, application of Vaseline on prone areas and showering before and after swimming. Avoiding chlorinated water bodies reduces the occurrence greatly. Individuals graded as high risk as in atopic condition should completely stay away from chlorine sources.

Chlorine Rash Pictures

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