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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Chlorine?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many substances that trigger an allergic reaction for people. Chlorine is a substance that many people are sensitive to, but are unaware of until a reaction occurs. Signs of an allergic reaction to chlorine include eye irritation, coughing, and sneezing after exposure. A chlorine allergy may also cause stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, and dry skin. In some instances, chlorine sensitivity can lead to the development of a rash.

Chlorine is a chemical used to treat pool and drinking water. It can also be found in many household chemicals, like cleaners and chlorine bleach. Most people experience eye irritation when prolonged exposure to chlorinated water occurs, particularly while swimming in a pool.

Exposure to chlorine causes a reaction when the body determines the chlorine is a threat. Histamines are created to block the chlorine, which in turn causes symptoms. An allergic reaction to chlorine is classified as a type 4 allergy.

All allergies and sensitivities are classified into one of four allergy groups. A type 4 allergy is a delayed allergy. This means that an allergy reaction to chlorine does not occur at the moment of exposure. Symptoms will appear hours after contact. The allergic reaction occurs as a result of cellular activity, which takes time.

Eye irritation is one of the most common symptoms of an reaction to chlorine. Although it can be a sign of an allergy to chlorine, eye irritation can also occur in people with a slight sensitivity or people without any sensitivity at all. Chlorine is a chemical well known for its irritating capabilities. Consistent redness, itching, and swelling are signs of an allergy not just sensitivity.

Coughing and sneezing are also signs of an allergic reaction to chlorine. These two symptoms can occur from getting chlorinated water in the nose or swallowing chlorinated water. They can also occur from breathing in the fumes of chlorine. The throat and nasal passages become irritated and inflamed. Chronic coughing and sneezing following exposure signifies an allergy.

Dry skin can be a sign of an chlorine allergy. Skin becomes itchy, feels tight, and starts to peel after contact. This reaction can occur from contact with pool water, clothes washed in chlorinated products, or using cleaning products with chlorine. The dry skin should not be confused with the occurrence of white patches, which are a form of a yeast infection that swimmers can get.

With a severe allergic reaction to chlorine, it is common for a person to experience symptoms that mimic an asthma attack. Wheezing, gasping, and a feeling of a tight chest are all signs of an allergic reaction. These symptoms can occur immediately following exposure but are often delayed like the other symptoms.

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Discussion Comments

By anon944122 — On Apr 05, 2014

I have read many articles discussing sensitivity to chlorine and how it affects some people.

It seems chloramines (a byproduct of chlorination), is the culprit, especially for those with asthma related issues. It affects some worse than others. We have many clients who are hyper sensitive to chlorine. Conditions range from skin sensitivity to sinus and asthma related issues. The numbers are way too high to suggest that there is no link. This reaffirms what I have been reading.

By Primemobi — On Feb 13, 2014

For those who may have chlorine allergies or sensitivities, there is at least one alternative that I'm familiar with if you have a pool or hot tub. Baquacil offers a full line of pool products free of chlorine. Google it and check it out.

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