View Full Version : Alergic reaction to chlorine?

April 3rd, 2004, 09:17 AM
Lately I am swimming at 2 different pools. I am a late blooming, 45yo, fitness swimmer. I am up to doing about 3800 yds per workout. I find that I often have a very runny nose and sneezing fits that can last the entire day. I will take benedryl but it only seems to help a bit. I have tried to pay attention and think that one of the pools may be causing much more of a problem than the other.

As an experiment I tried takign a single benedryl (sp?) about a half hour before swimming. THis seems to be helping. So am I alergic to the water?

Is this common and what other suggestions if any?

April 3rd, 2004, 09:54 AM
Can't answer your question about wheather or not you are allergic to the chlorine, but another thought... it is Spring. It might be a Spring allergy, or mold growing in at one or both of the pool locations.

April 3rd, 2004, 09:59 AM
It's unlikely but not impossible to have allergy problems to chlorine/pool chemicals. Usually (not always), allergies are to proteins.

Other, more likely, problems are 1. Seasonal allergies -- don't discount this, they can show up any time and RIGHT NOW is a peak time of year for them; 2. Mold/fungus -- think about it -- pools are havens for dampness, and molds etc grow really well in this environment, and are very allergenic 3. Non-allergic (irritant) rhinitis to the chemicals

Benadryl usually lasts a few hours, like 3-4. It's also sedating to many people, so may not be your best choice for allergy symptoms. There is (expen$ive) over the counter claritin which works for 24 hrs and is mostly nonsedating, and there are precription ones also (no major advantage over OTC claritin except your health insurance may pick up the tab).

I would bet on seasonal allergies, just because of the time of year, but if you haven't noticed these symptoms until the past month or so it may not be. Certainly if you notice one pool is less likely to cause your symptoms than another -- stick with that one!!

May 22nd, 2004, 09:11 AM
I am experiencing the same symptoms after a long swim; but surprisingly the problem seems to be the worst after one of those "I don't think you guys are doing enough back stroke" workouts!

I have tried taking claritin the night before a morning swim and it does seem to lessen the reaction.

But then again, there are times when there is no reaction to the pool at all.

If anyone has other ideas let us know!

old dog
May 22nd, 2004, 10:00 AM
Originally posted by aschueler
There is (expen$ive) over the counter claritin which works for 24 hrs and is mostly nonsedating, and there are precription ones also (no major advantage over OTC claritin except your health insurance may pick up the tab).


I use to use Claritan w/ an RX--$72/month. It recently went OTC/generic [loratadine]; I last paid $9.69/60!

It works pretty well most of the year, but in the spring I need
to take a decongestent [generic Sudaphed] too before I swim.

Phil Arcuni
May 22nd, 2004, 12:53 PM
This issue comes up very often. Almost surely it is rhinitis as mentioned by aschueler. The fact that it is more likely to occur during backstoke workouts, when water often washes in the sinusus, is a good clue. While very annoying and debilitating in some cases, it is not technically an allergy and allergy medications will probably not help. I have some experience with this -- at one time a pool I swam in made me sneeze and have an extreme runny nose for a couple of days after each workout.

There have been many suggestions; in my order of preference - swim in a pool that does not cause the problem (well maintained and/or outside), nose plug (you will be surprised how quickly you can get used to it), and nasal washes (yech!). I would avoid the drugs as they are expensive, and well, drugs, with unnecessary side effects.

October 23rd, 2004, 03:00 AM
I have asthma & allergies. I've had many allergists at great teaching hospitals tell me that chlorine is not an allergant. It is an irratant(sp). It can bother you but IgE is not produced? Please doctors help me. You can not be skin tested for it. The bendryl probably relaxed you & that could also be a reason why it helped.

There have been times when I've been given benedryll IV in the ER. It is truly an unique experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 24th, 2004, 05:09 AM
My allergy problem has been solved and it was without the assistance of drugs.

A simple nose clip sent this probem into oblivion. If only it wasn't hot pink, I think the rest of the team would be more acceptive!

April 18th, 2005, 06:10 PM
As a sufferer of horrifying allergy attacks, I have been able to clear up my problems within 6 months. It takes time. I have not had any issues with swimming in the past 7 months. You must lay off the WHITE FLOUR and DAIRY products and take ACIDOPHOLIS vitamin (probiotic). Amazing what that change can do.

I sneeze every once in a while when the smell of flowers are really close by, but nothing like what i used to go through

May 12th, 2005, 06:00 PM
Originally posted by NEALK56
Lately I am swimming at 2 different pools. I am a late blooming, 45yo, fitness swimmer. I am up to doing about 3800 yds per workout. I find that I often have a very runny nose and sneezing fits that can last the entire day. I will take benedryl but it only seems to help a bit. I have tried to pay attention and think that one of the pools may be causing much more of a problem than the other.

As an experiment I tried takign a single benedryl (sp?) about a half hour before swimming. THis seems to be helping. So am I alergic to the water?

Is this common and what other suggestions if any?

funny you should ask this, I had a similar issue all of the sudden this early spring!.. I had not swum in about 4 months, then went back to it.. I sometimes sit in a sauna after the workouts and noticed my nose started running all of the sudden. then I started sneezing when I got back to work and the top of my mouth was itchy..

I noticed the next time I went swimming that my goggles (that had been sitting in my swim bag for 4 months), had a little bit of mold on the gaskets!.. I've cleaned them the best I can, (i should probably get new ones though), and noticed a little bit of a difference, I don't do the sneezing thing any more, my mouth isn't itchy, and my nose isn't running as much.

Although, I have also been "cleansing" my body as much as I can.. I changed my diet and no longer am eating refined sugars (except for some occasions :rolleyes: ), or fried or foods that are very processed. I also started drinking water with lemon in it which helps to cleanse excess mucus from the body.

Good luck, I hope you find some relief!

debby golob
July 12th, 2005, 06:51 PM
nose plug does the trick

July 12th, 2005, 06:59 PM
I once herd you cannot be allergic to chlorine yet this topic keeps coming up. If you are allergic to chlorine don't drink water, drink wine or beer. The odd whiskie sour is good to, no ice cubes as the water they use is chlorinated.

December 13th, 2006, 09:15 AM
Hey I have had the same reaction for two years I swim for about a week. Then I get a really dry throat and my sinus plug up I have no idea what to do. I have thought about going to the allergist but last time I went to a doctor they told me I have a sinus infection. (this lasted for the whole season 3 months) Would you suggest going to an allergist or do you have any tips on what to do?

December 13th, 2006, 09:36 AM
They once did a survey, I think at Johns Hopkins, and patients wrote on a paper what they thought they were allergic to. Oxygen was included in a lot of answers. Another study or story is that if you give a glass of water containing only water to 1,000 people and have them visit a doctor, half will have some complaints related to the "water" they took. Chlorine is part of our daily lives. If there is excess of chlorine in the water you drink or in the pool you swim, you might get irritation from it. Just like drinking salt water might make you puke, but not when drinking Gatorade, which contains the very same salt. It is all a question of excesses. As for allergy, George above is right, you can't be allergic to something that is so much part of your daily life. I would believe that a sinus condition is a combination of many factors, the least of which would be the swimming.Last week I had, for the first time in decades, an inner ear infection. It happened the evening after a swimming meet at a public pool where I swam a 400 freestyle and a 50 butterfly (butterstruggle the last 10 meters). I immediately blamed the pool and started to self treat myself with alcohol and other stuff into my ear. When I went to the doctor on Monday and he looked at my ear he told me it was not on the outer part but inside, and had nothing to do with anything on the exterior. Actually it was caused by some nose-throat-whatever which communicates with the inner ear. So I took the medication and stopped dumping alcohol and peroxide into my ear. The infection and inflammation went away within a week. Take care, billy fanstone

December 13th, 2006, 10:28 AM
I have been swimming my entire life and I have always had a runny nose. Never tried to figure out what it is, it just is, but after I stop swimming and return home, it all goes away.


December 16th, 2006, 01:08 PM
I think this topic will always reappear and people will always be interested in it because we generally don't understand the difference between an allergic reaction and an irratation. I've been told that chlorine isn't a protein so it can't cause an allergic reaction. It can, like aspirin, cause an irratation. There is no IgE. That's why you cna't be skin-tested for chlorine!

Then during this past week, I was getting ready for work when I heard on a morning chat show that swimmers can have problems with chlorine and nasal congestion. About 2 years ago there was an article in Lancet that suggested swimmers with asthma have slightly different lung structure than do both asthmatics who do not swim and nonasthmatics who swim. This new study seems to suggest that the same thing can happen in the nasal passages of asthmatic swimmers and what might also happen in their lungs. I guess your nasal passages get irrated so many times hta they create a defense mechanism to fight this.

I've had polyps removed two times. I also have severe asthma. I've had doctors do all sorts of weird things to my nose. I was told that since I broke my nose (actually my older brother broke my nose when he was a tennager by throwing me off of the garage roof when I was 4 yrs old), I am particularily susseptible to polyps.

I'm not a doctor nor do I play one onTV. I've found Flonase really helps keep the situation at bay though.

December 17th, 2006, 02:39 PM
I used to have the same symptoms a couple of years ago. They changed the chemicals in the filtration system into a new one and I'm perfectly fine. I've tried another pool yesterday and my old friend (allergic reaction) came back. I'm sure that it is related to the chemicals they use to clean the pool water.

December 21st, 2006, 12:42 PM
I wear both earplugs and noseplug and have never been bothered by this type of problem. Rememer these organs communicate w/in the skull and can be synergistic in causing or solving problems. Good luck.

December 21st, 2006, 09:25 PM
Hey Larry, I had a bad earache a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night after having been in a swim meet where I swam 400 free and 50 fly. I immediately figured I had an impacted wax or water or whatever in my external ear (don't know the exact scientific terms in English). So next I went against that old saying that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, and started treating myself. I poured alcohol, peroxide and other stuff into my ear, took some ibuprofen and waited for Monday to come to go to a real ear, nose, throat guy. Well, my problem was not in the external ear, but in the middle ear. So all that junk I stuck into my ear from the outside never came close to the problem. I had to take some antibiotics and some cortisone. Moral of the story: not all ear problems are on the outside, and not all ear problems are related to swimming. In my case it was an infection, probably though the nose into the middle ear. How can you swim with the nose clip and not drown? I tried it for backstroke but it doesn't do it for me. I occasionally use ear plugs mostly for the silence, as I also do when riding the motorcycle. Take care, billy fanstone.

December 27th, 2006, 12:01 AM
Hi Billy,
Sorry to hear you had the dreaded inner ear infection. It can be quite painful. Hope it has cleared up for you. As for the nose clip, it was, for me, a matter of practice and breathing coordination. I breath bilaterally orally and this seems to work well for me. I can swim with or w/out the clip but rarely swim w/out the ear plugs as I seem to have an inner ear canal shape that retains water no matter what I do.
Here in my part of the world it is
RSV season (respiratory syncitial virus) and a recent bout of tracheobronchitis put me out of comission. Hope to be swimming again soon. Stay well. Larry

December 27th, 2006, 09:57 AM
Good ear wax removers stop the outer ear infections http://www.americarx.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=6752

December 27th, 2006, 08:53 PM
Debrox brand (earwax) remover has worked well for me in the past.

December 29th, 2006, 10:51 AM
I swim in several pools and find I have different reactions to each one. I have a mild nasal irritation in the pool with the highest chlorine level, that ussually clears gradually during the day. (5ppm) One of the other pools, which has the lowest chlorine levels (2.2ppm) gives me the worst problems. As some of the others have mentioned various enviromental agents can cause problems. Seasonal allergies must be considered. Molds and fungus are certainly considerations. A British study from the 80's showed that various dermatophytes live in clorinated water for about 100+ days. A major consideration is the chemical agents used to clean the decks. If detergents or other cleaning agents get in the water , you may be allergic to them or just have a chemical irritation. I swim in a pool that hosted the NCAA last year. Metal cleaner & solutions to cleant the deck and bulkhead where hosed into the pool. I had to take decongestants before and after swimming for 6 weeks.
Another considereation is the percentage of swimmers showering before entering the pool and the rate of fresh water added to the pool. It is anybodies guess as to the long term effect of choline on the chemicals we put on ourselves.

The bottom line there are a variety of chemicals and organic matter in swimming pools which may cause a chemical irritation or allergic reaction. We are dependent on the pool management to do more than just keep the tests (pH, Chloine, trichloramines.. ) in balance.
You options are noseclips, decongestants/antihistamines or a new pool.

December 29th, 2006, 01:58 PM
I agree that it would be highly unusual to be allergic to a commonplace compound like chlorine, but "normal people" don't usually snort chlorinated water (good swimmers may not either, but as I'm not in that category, I can't comment ;)). Chlorine can be an irritant to delicate nasal tissue.

Since I got back into the water this fall, I've had recurring sinus infections. I'm sure my cranial physiology is a factor, but I think the chlorine is the proverbial straw for this proverbial camel.

Nose plugs, here I come.

April 3rd, 2007, 06:56 AM
I'd like to offer some general observations, not meant as a personal recommendation to anyone in particular and certainly not meant to override what your own clinicians recommend. As mentioned by other posters, chlorine hypersensitivity is not a conventional IgE-mediated allergy. It is a classic irritant to the surfaces of the nose, eyes, skin and lining of the lungs and airways. Many instances of swimming-pool asthma are known, and the mechanism is the strong irritative effect of chlorine and it's daughter chemical chloramine, among other possible family members. Further,acidity above or below the range of pH 7.2 - 7.8 causes direct irritation, too.

The poster whose nose ran and sneezed after swimming, esp. backstroke where water entered nostrils abruptly exhibits classic "Nonallergic Rhinitis." It may be helpful to coat the inside of nostrils with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly before swimming to form a barrier against the chlorine compounds. In most cases an oral antihistamine like Claritin will not work. In general prescription steroid nasal sprays like Flonase tend to be very effective at prevention. The newer prescription spray Astelin works within one hour of use and therefore can be used "on demand" rather than daily. Interestingly, it is an antihistamine spray, yet it is very effective for the nonallergic conditions. It's main side effect is drowsiness in a minority of people.

Asthma is commonly triggered by swimming pools, usually indoor ones, due to the airborne chlorine compounds. It might be useful to use your quick relief inhaler for prevention and treatment should this happen. You should speak to your own doctor or allergist about this.

April 3rd, 2007, 01:34 PM
Thanks Jeffrey, for that information. I (finally) sought treatment for my "exercise" enduced asthma in the past year. Although, I have always had trouble breathing at the pool, I reused to believe I had a medical problem. Thinking of it as "swimming pool" asthma is a much more appropriate depiction of my malady.

As for the sneezing/runny nose during/after workout, swimming floods the sinuses. Shouldn't some nasal discharge be expected? I always sneeze 5-6 times in a row about 15 minutes after finishing a workout. It seems my body knows when I'm done and does this to clear all the yuck away.

Based on the other posters similar experiences, it sounds like you have joined the "club". Welcome to the sneezy, runny nose brigade--AKA Master's swimming!

Mia Kopela
April 3rd, 2007, 06:35 PM
It may be helpful to coat the inside of nostrils with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly before swimming to form a barrier against the chlorine compounds.
That's what I do, except I use shea butter instead of petroleum jelly. I used to get a runny nose during and after swimming, but not anymore. I find that this simple treatment also helps my mild hayfever.

April 4th, 2007, 04:19 PM
Before using petrolium jelly or other lipids in your nose, you should be aware of the possibility of developing lipoid pneumonia from long term usage. I recommend reading the short article by the mayo clinic at www.mayoclinic.com/health/petroleum-jelly/AN00947.

Trichloramines and related compounds are know pulmonary irritants. Inhalors may provide symptomatic relief, but you are still subject to the inflamatory effects of the trichloramines. It is an open question if poorly ventilated pools may actually cause asthma and what are the long term effects of swimming in them. Ultimately, it may require improving ventilation and/or increasing fresh air exchange. There is a hypothesis that the trichloramines are produced by the bacteria in the biofilm of the filters. It has been proposed that changeing the filter material from sand to another material will reduce trichloramine production and decrease symptoms.