How to recognize and prevent chlorine rash

For many of us, a swimming pool is a cool respite on a hot summer day, but sometimes, the result of that swim can be a skin irritation known as a chlorine rash. In this recent article on, Steven E. Rasmussen, MD, FAADDermatology at ARC Southwest gives us the 411 on chlorine rash.

What is a chlorine rash?

A chlorine rash is, essentially, a rash that forms after swimming in a chlorinated pool; a rash from chlorine is a sensitivity known as irritant contact dermatitis, rather than a true allergic reaction.

Like most sensitivities, the more chemical you're exposed to, the greater your reaction. That means you're much more likely to develop a chlorine rash after swimming in a pool with very high levels of chlorine (think: a hotel or public pool), than you would be in a pool with lower levels of chlorine or a hot tub. Dr. Rasmussen says, “While you may get a rash at one pool, it may not happen at another."

The good news? Chlorine rashes aren't contagious, so even if you get one, you can't pass it on to someone else.

What are the symptoms of a chlorine rash—and what does it look like?

A chlorine rash—like most instances of irritant contact dermatitis—can present in a variety of ways, but will typically include the following symptoms, according to Dr. Rasmussen:

  • Skin redness
  • Skin tenderness
  • Skin itchiness
  • Lesions or rashes on skin
  • Scales or crust on skin

How can you prevent a chlorine rash?

One prevention mechanism for avoiding chlorine rash is applying petroleum jelly, like Vaseline®, or an ointment, like Aquaphor®, to the skin before getting in the water. It will act as a barrier to the chemical, minimizing its interaction with the skin.

Once you're done swimming, change out of your swimsuit or trunks immediately and rinse your skin thoroughly with plain water in a shower or with a garden hose to remove any residual pool water that may remain on the skin after swimming. It is important to apply your moisturizer after showering to not trap the chlorine on your skin, Dr. Rasmussen says.

Dr. Rasmussen also advises staying away from the pool for a bit if you are experiencing any type of rash or skin irritation.

Make an appointment today

If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Rasmussen to discuss skin issues, call ARC Southwest at 512-282-8967 or online at

Tags: Chlorine rash