Chlorine allergy

36 messages
17/04/2007 at 19:13
Does anyone have this problem with indoor pools? I love swimming, have a great session then suffer for about 5 days afterwards with symptoms akin to hayfever or a heavy cold. Dripping, itching nose and constant sneezing- but other than that I feel fine. It's usually about 5 days before I can swim again- can't go into the pool with a runny nose!
I use ear plugs, goggles, nose clip and smear vaseline jelly around my nose to try to solve the problem.
I had the advantage of swimming in an ozone treated (no chlorine at all) pool back home (NZ) and had no problems. So I am thinking this is an allergy to chlorine.
Does anyone else have this problem? Has anyone come up with a treatment/prevention? I am wondering if it's possible to get de-sensitised to an allergen?
Thanks for any suggestions- swimming is my main fitness exercise at the moment as am recovering from knee surgery so it would be great to be able to swim more than once a week!
17/04/2007 at 23:06
Hi I do suffer from severe sneezing but not for as long a period as 5 days,you could try anti histamine tablets such as becanaze or try a different swimming pool it may be the specific chemicals that have been added to that pool.Hope this helps.

Only the true self,which transcends the personal,lays claim to immortality.
17/04/2007 at 23:06
Hi piglet, I too suffer from runny nose etc and am just getting over a bout of sinusitus. I find the beconase nasal spray for hayfever works ok if you put a few squirts up your nose before a swim. I find the problem is worse when the chlorine is stronger smelling, which as Im sure you'll know means it is working harder. Have you tried breathhing in steam after a swim? wether its a while in the sauna or a bowl with a towel over your head[:-]..

The older I get, the faster I was.
18/04/2007 at 23:50
Hi guys
Thanks for the suggestions. Will try the beconase. Unfortunately pools here a bit limited in Ayr either the public pool at the Citadel or the 20m pool at Bannetynes. I usually pop into the steam room after my swim- but the sneezing etc starts about 1-2 hrs after I get out. The spray may help. I am going to try the lochs and sea once it warms up a bit.


19/04/2007 at 19:50
Hi Piglet,sorry but I forgot to add the follwing to my reply earlier,your allergy could be chlorine induced sinusitis,One option you could try if you prefer a more natural one is to use an inhaler (bettaware does one where you add a few drops of Olbas oil or any eucalyptus derivative to an inch of boiling water and breathe) or stick your head over a bowl of boiling water with the olbas oil in it.Hope this helps.

Only the true self,which transcends the personal,lays claim to immortality.
23/04/2007 at 08:16
Thanks Jon- will try this too!![:D]
30/04/2007 at 23:53
Hi Piglet
I was sorry to read of your chlorine reaction -- I seem to have the same thing. I have been swimming for years with no problems, but after being out of the pool for a few years, now I get a very runny nose & lots of sneezing within a hour of getting out of the pool.

I read online that a product you apply to your skin before swimming (DermaSwim? or similar) claims to help prevent chlorine absorption. Have you heard of this? Also could you please tell me if your allergy came on suddenly? I am reluctant to stay out of the pool because (like you) I am using it for therapy to recover from an injury.

Best regards,
03/05/2007 at 08:16
Hi Piglet
I get *exactly* the same symptoms as yourself - and I'm suffering from a ruptured ACL knee injury so have gone back to swimming to keep healthy, so it's a bit of a nuisance. My symptoms (as you say, very hay-fever like, although I've never suffered from that) only last a couple of days but also come on an hour or two after swimming. I'm only in the pool 25 - 30 minutes but the symptoms are worst after a 'proper' swim (with heavy breathing!) during that time, whereas when I'm messing about with kids for an hour or so I don't seem to be as affected. I thought it was exposure of chlorine etc to the nasal linings and considered a nose plug - but you say you've tried that to no avail. When I'm fooling around with kids I get a *lot* more water up my nose (underwater somersaults, being dunked and so on) than when I'm swimming seriously but then get milder (or no) symptoms so it can't really be that.

I've swam in a number of different pools and I've noticed that I don't suffer anything like as much when I'm in french pools (for example). In the UK it's almost inevitable after a proper swimming session. However, regular swims over a number of weeks or months seems to ameliorate the problem, as if I develop a resistence to whatever the cause is. However, I've only just returned to swimming after nearly 2 years out so I've yet to see if this will happen - I'm hopeful.
I was thinking of seeing my GP and getting some sort of allegen test, if such a thing exists for pool chemicals! It's been shown that child swimmers have increased incidence of asthma in adulthood, so whatever it is, it's not benign (worrying![&:]).
If I find out anything I'll post!
Good luck with it.
05/05/2007 at 07:30
Im sure you already know, but if not...220 magazine have done an article on this subject, this very month.
(apologies,I was a bit hastey with this reply. It was about cycling and beconase etc)

The older I get, the faster I was.
Edited: 09/05/2007 at 16:20
08/05/2007 at 03:16
Hi Scranner
After reading your posting of 2/5, I experimented and found that--like you--the more I exert myself, the more intense my reaction. If I just paddle around for an hour, it is milder. If I really swim hard, the symptoms are more severe. One thing I noticed is that if I drink lots of water immediately after my workout, it seems to help a little. Yesterday I tried a Benedryl (anti-histamine) tablet after my swim, it also seemed to help a bit.

I'm curious if you or Piglet have noticed the reaction getting more severe over time..? I've read that this can happen with acquired allergies, e.g. those brought on by over-exposure. I can tolerate it at this level - hoping it won't get worse.
08/05/2007 at 21:53
In response to Andrea- yes it did come on suddenly. Last year I was swimming a lot- 5 times a week as I was taking lessons and practising all that I had learnt. All was OK and then suddenly I had the reaction that everyone on this forum has been experiencing. I even rang the gym to check that their chlorine/chemical balance was OK (which it was- they re-checked it). After that it was all on after every swim. I could only swim twice a week as it took so long to recover between swims. I agree- the longer and more intense the workout the worse it is. I have had no problem in outdoor pools (France and NZ) or in ozone treated pools so it's the chlorine.
Will try the suggestions you've all made. Derma skin- never heard of it but will look it up.
Have to read my 220 too and look for the article- been reading up about open water. Though still a bit chilly up here in Scotland.
It's good to know I'm not the only one having this- I thought maybe it was in my head!!!
15/06/2007 at 23:30
Hi all (and AlBaker2)
After a few more weeks I have one theory and one solution that seems to work for me at least. Swimming strenously (me: crawl) involves much surface turbulence which aids the release of gases from pool water. Breathing whilst swimming involves inhaling these concentrated gases from right above the surface. I'm pretty convinced it's not water entering my nose or mouth as I get a dry mouth after a session, and as I mentioned before I get a lot more up my nose when playing around with kids etc. but without the allergy attack. Standing around (messing around) in pool water even a foot or so above this concentrated gas zone it's feasible that the gases being released from the turbulent surface are greatly diluted and thus have less effect. Personal tolerence levels to these gases must play a part, so it might make no difference to other individuals.
This week I swam Monday and had the sneezing attack through 'til Wed. I swam last night (Thursday) using the nose clip and I've had no real symptoms today. The two times I've done this the effect was the same - it prevented the allergy attack. I only ever breath out of my nose, so I'm unsure if the guilty gases are getting *up* my nose or via my mouth but the clip prevents that circulation either way. For the £2 is costs it's worth a try. Better than drugs too.
It would be an interested experiment to swim using a snorkel one day and see if it has a beneficial effect - one could imagine using different lengths and find the optimum length! A gas analyser would be good fun too, although I doubt Greens Gym would be too happy.
18/06/2007 at 08:10
Hi All

Been swimming in a new pool- let the Bannetyne's membership lapse. This is the council pool- much larger area- has high ceilings, spectators' gallery, three pools- etc. Very different to the small area of the gym where the ceiling was low and the heavily chlorinated spa pool was in the same space. I am still using my nose clip, ear pugs and putting petroleum jelly up my nose before hand. But I haven't had a problem in the council pool. So, scranner- I think your theory about the gas could be true. With the high ceiling of this pool area I presume the gases are rising way up and away from us swimmers- whereas at the gym they had no where to go- plus the spa pool added to it all. I had a bit of snuffly nose after one session and did the olbas oil trick as suggested by Jon.E- it really worked- stopped the runny nose and I could swim the next day -[:D]
As my knee is STILL playing up this is a major bonus for me. Now I just have to swim faster and I'll be a happy piglet[;)]
18/06/2007 at 22:20
Hi Piglet,
Why not just swim open water. That's what I do.

Pat Bailey
19/06/2007 at 06:06
Because not everyone has somewhere convienient where they can swim in open water. I know I don't.

02/08/2007 at 02:53

I too, have developed problems with exactly the same symptoms in the past 2 months. I've been swimming approximately 4 - 5 times a week for over 10 years and no issues.. until 2 months ago when this allergy came out of the blue.

It starts a few hours after I've been training, and then massive amounts of sneezing, scratchy puffy eyes and blocked nasal passages. It wears off about 48 hours.

I have tried everything, and tried a different pool - which produced exactly the same results. A few years ago I also used an ozone treated pool with no issues, but at the time I wasn't having issues with chorine pools either. I've been in touch with the pool about the chemicals and tried a variety of products - none of the anti-histamines work (piriton, benadryl, clarityn, beconaze). I'll try and source some of the derma swim and give that go.

I have no access to ozone pools locally, or open water training other than an invitation once every 2-3 months which is no good for training. It's so debilitating I've stopped going so regularly, and I've pulled out of 2 olympic tri events during the past 2 months because of it.

I am now completely demoralised and am at a complete loss. :-(
My only comfort is that it seems I am not alone.

If anyone has any other ideas, problems, anything, I'd love to hear... I'm desperate. The swim is my favourite part of my tri.
02/08/2007 at 20:06

I developed a similar problem, particularly in open water (which might be algae?) but also in the pool.

I tried all of the anti-histamine tablets without much success until a pharmacist suggested a nasal spray such as Beconase.

This has worked like a dream, a couple of squirts up each nostril prior to swimming seems to have eliminated the problem for me - might be worth a go.

Off to London for Sunday, see you all there!
02/08/2007 at 22:36
Add me to the list of sufferes. reading the posts quite a few people who have been long term swimmers are suddenly being affected.

if as mentioned before the chlorine mix was re tested at the pool and was ok should we not be looking at where the clorine comes from?
Have the local public pools changed supplirer ( are all public pools supplied by the same company????)[8|]

can anyone who works in the field shed some light on this??
15/08/2007 at 05:03
Hi, I've just started getting this too (well, in the last 3-4mths). Sneezing, nose just drips everywhere & then is blocked solid at night. Can last for a couple of days. The pool I use uses UV filtration reducing the chlorine content, but it's the same pool I've been using for 18mths with no probs. I have increased the time I spend in the pool, used to be no more than about 50 mins, now can be anything up to 80-90mins & that may be part of the reason.

Pain is temporary, quitting is forever. (Who thinks up this stuff?!)
15/08/2007 at 21:26
Sorry to hear you're a sufferer too - there seems to be an ever increasing amount of us... :-(
I have some more info, now I have the actual chemical listings from my pool and the assistance of a professor of chemistry (fellow swimmer). I think 'Scranner' above was onto something.

The pool 'ingredients' are:

Bicarbonate of Soda
Hydrochloric Acid
HTH Dry Chlorine Granules

This is an assumption, but this is what 'we' think is happening:

The hydrochloric acid works in tandem with the "chlorine" The bicarbonate of soda is there to balance the pH. Neither should be a problem. The "dry chlorine granuals" are probably calcium hypochlorite, Ca(ClO)2. This is the stuff that acts as "free chlorine" and oxidises the bacteria.

The most likely problem is not the hypochlorite itself (although it could be, i'm no expert on this by any means), but the chloramines which form on oxidation.

These can accumulate just above the surface of the water and are thus inhaled, causing irritation.

If the pH isnt in the ideal regime, more chloramines than usual are formed which is why sometimes the severity of the symptoms is variable although ever present.

Also, in my pool the circulation is very poor (old pool hall design), so the chloramines aren't circulated well and concentrate at the surface. Perhaps in a more modern pool things would be improved - worth a try, and something I'm now going to test. There's a relatively new David Lloyd club in the vicinty so I'm going to speak to them and 'test' their pool.

What are the pools like for the rest of you? Are they old? well ventilated or not?

Unfortunately, I'm not any further forward with a resolution as yet... :-( And I was so ill on Sunday I've stopped going for a week or two. But this is really starting to p### me off so I'm not giving up just yet!