You can’t be allergic to chlorine, but you can be sensitive or have a reaction. If you are sensitive, should you stop swimming? No, instead you should find and treat the cause of your sensitivity and find relief.
What you think is a chlorine allergy might actually be underlying asthma, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) or bronchospasm. Your runny nose might be due to other underlying allergy problems.
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Chlorine reactions may include itchy, red skin or hives (itchy bumps). This is not an allergy but is actually "irritant dermatitis" (like a chemical burn), caused by hypersensitivity to this natural irritant. Chlorine is also drying to the skin and can irritate existing dermatitis.
Chlorine may indirectly contribute to allergies by irritating and sensitizing the respiratory tract. Studies have suggested that frequent swimming in chlorinated pools and exposure to cleaning products containing chlorine may increase the risk of developing asthma and other respiratory allergies, both in adolescents and in adults.
Those who have asthma, when they go to a chlorinated pool, if they take a deep inhalation, they will find that their lungs will actually burn a little bit. In fact, chlorine when it’s in full concentration will burn a normal skin. But when you find it in chlorine pools, it’s at a concentration that kills the bacteria, but yet it’s not supposed to be an irritant to the general population.
Allergist Leonard Bielory, MD
This is most detectable in people with long-term exposure, including lifeguards, professional cleaners, and swimmers with more than 1,000 hours of exposure. Many Olympic swimmers have suffered from chlorine sensitivity, found relief and gone onto win numerous medals, like six-time U. S. Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken and five-time Australian gold medalist Ian Thorpe.
It may not impact people with less frequent exposure in fact, some studies have shown household use of chlorine bleach can actually reduce the onset of allergies to household allergens such as dust mites, possibly by inactivating allergens.
Chlorine sensitivity can occur when swimming pools increase the amount of chlorine, for example, in response to health scares such as "Swine Flu" or E. coli. Finding facilities with lower chlorine concentrations may resolve your sensitivity.