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Chlorine allergy

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!



  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    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.
  • hound doghound dog Posts: 293
    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[:-]..
  • pigletpiglet Posts: 86
    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.


  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    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.
  • pigletpiglet Posts: 86
    Thanks Jon- will try this too!![:D]
  • albaker2albaker2 Posts: 2
    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,


  • ScrannerScranner Posts: 2
    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.
  • hound doghound dog Posts: 293
    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)
  • albaker2albaker2 Posts: 2
    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.


  • pigletpiglet Posts: 86
    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!!!

  • ScrannerScranner Posts: 2
    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.

  • pigletpiglet Posts: 86
    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[;)]
  • ardkeenardkeen Posts: 152
    Hi Piglet,

    Why not just swim open water. That's what I do.

  • MikeyBMikeyB Posts: 135
    Because not everyone has somewhere convienient where they can swim in open water. I know I don't.


  • Hi,

    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.
  • Hi,

    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!
  • 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??
  • RobRob Posts: 209
    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.
  • 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!


  • I use a couple of pools locally. The first one is no more than 10 years old the other is brand new both have high ceilings. the ventilation in both is quite good
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    My investigations into this problem arrived at the same point as yours, Liz. I started looking into this after a Tuesday night swimming session left me at the doctor's with a 50% reduced ability to breathe (measured on a puff test), and left another team member in casualty with breathing difficulties. Also, about half the team were coughing for a few days afterwards.

    The main factors seemed to be a sunny weekend, so lots of pool users (the pool is connected to the outside pool area and decking) meaning lots of sweat and urine (ie sugars) in the water, slightly raised chlorine levels, raised temperatures - parents complaining that the water wasn't warm enough for their little darlings - and poor ventilation caused by a low ceiling and a rainy day following the hot weekend which meant the outside doors had stayed closed. Also, the pool is small (22m) and shallow (1.4m) so there simply isn't enough water to dilute some of the nasties.

    So.... sweat/pee = sugar = bacteria. Bacteria + chlorine = chloramines. High temperature and poor ventilation = layer of chloramines above the water.

    Chuck in a masters class all heavy breathing at water level and you have a problem. On this particular occasion it was very bad. On other occasions we've had allergic reactions and a bit of coughing, and we can attribute this to similar mechanisms, or just one or two of the causes I have listed.

    you need to try and persuade your pool management to open a few doors/windows and drop the temperature by a couple of degrees. They may get complaints, but so what? We got complaints at our pool from parents of smaller kids, and from the 'Aqua-aerobics' classes. The two groups who don't move enough in the water to keep warm [:@] We smoothed things over with some printed notices saying "The pool temperature has been lowered for Health and Safety reasons. Thank you for your understanding."

    The pool management were very helpful, once a number of us demanded to see the safety log, registered 'Safety Incidents' in the log and got the Health and Safety people from the council involved.

    Incidentally, I use Loratadine (non-drowsy anti-histamine), Beconase (nose spray) and Opticrom (eye drops) for my hay fever, so I usually have a good few months of problem free swimming in the summer. I also find I need my asthma inhaler when swimming indoors.

    The best solution, as others have said, is swimming outdoors. I know this is not possible for many people. I'm lucky to be on the South coast so I can get my Orca suit on and jump in the Solent. Don't forget that there are always rivers, too: in fact I'll be in the river at Beaulieu (New Forest) on Sunday afternoon at about 4:30pm if anybody fancies a current assisted 2-3 miler [:D]


  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    Sorry to raise this old topic again,but if anyone wants to try (and try being the operative word) there is a product produced by a company called Sterimar which produces a nasal spray composed of salt water used to flush the nasal passages out.It is available from some health stores.It has a web site www.sterimar.com if you put in .co.uk instead of dot com you get transferred to a nice website that provides details of other drug related products that would get you banned from competition quicker than a chlorine induced sneezing fit.Hope this helps fellow sufferers.
  • SallieSallie Posts: 1

    I'm no athlete, but have just come accross your site from the content of this thread.

    I've been under the care of a haematologist because of a massive abnormality in my eosinophils, which, amongst many other things, are linked to asthma. I've had some very invasive tests which have ruled out some fairly scary options... which set me thinking again as to why I became so ill.

    I had a major operation in July and, at the end of October, felt well enough to start getting a little fitter again. Because it was half term I went swimming with my daughter every day for about a week. She then went off to France with my brother and I couldn't face going swimming again because I felt ill.

    My hands/wrists and ankles/feet had swollen and I was itching down my arms and legs. My GP suggested I started taking antihistamines for the itching. After about a week I felt as though I had 'flu, without the fever, and sought medical help again. This time I was given a blood test which showed I had an eosinophil count of 10+ (normal range is 0 - 0.5). This has finally calmed down and is now at a level which would indicate active asthma (0.8).

    Although none of the posts show such an extreme raection, I appreciate all your posts as this has helped to point me in the right direction. I have swum all my life, have used the pool in question on many occasions, but mainly for family recreational swimming, and it is new and very 'airy'.

    I will contact my haematologist before I try out the theory that this is what affected me, and may end up seeking out the help of an immunilogist.

    I wondered if anyone else had experienced such an extreme reaction.

  • I have just found this discussion after a season of getting block noses after swimming training sessions. Initially I thought that I was catching a cold from the pool each time but having read your discussion a lot more things tie in.

    One thing that may help is that I use two different pools both run by the same council and leisure provider but:

    - One is an old Victorian pool, which is hotter and less well ventilated

    - The other is a new large pool, cooler and much higher ceilings

    My problems are much worse in the old Victorian pool.

    Will try the various remedies. Thanks for the info.


  • SlowHSlowH Posts: 3
    Hi All,

    I'm not sure I can add too much to the above, except add my own personal experiences, and if it helps anyone, then that's great.

    My symptoms mirror most of what's been said. I've been swimming since before I could walk, I'm in my fifties now and this suddenly became a problem for me about three or four years ago. Rivers, the sea, lakes and ozone pools are no problem at all, but as soon as I get in a chlorinated pool, even if it's a private pool that has little use or an endless pool, then my head seizes up for at least 48 hours. A fellow swimmer suggested using a noseclip, and this, for me, has been a miracle cure, - no symptoms whatsover now (apart from the eczma type itchy skin). If you haven't tried a clip, then give it a go.

    Personally, I'm not sure it's a chlorine thing, - as a kid the chlorine in some of the pools we used to swim in was enough to bleach your trunks away in a few weeks, - I used to look like I was dressed in Robinson Crusoe's loincloth by the end of the summer holidays. Similarly with the ventilation thing, - outdoor chlorinated pools had the same effect as indoor.

    Any additional additives, especially recent ones, have got be top of the suspect list.

  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Just to clarify my comments from earlier.... it's not the chlorine, it is the by-products of chlorination. These by products are made worse by over-use, poor pool hygiene, warm water and poor ventilation (or any combination thereof).

    All of these should be easily fixable, if your pool management are sensible people.

    [By the way, I'm not a chemist, or a pool maintenance person or anything. Just going on what I've learned and observed.]
  • This thread has been v helpful to me, as have recently changed from training at large high ceilinged 25 m council pool to small 20m low ceiling David Lloyd club pool with jacuzzi and sauna next to it.
    I have had upper respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and cough since changing my training pool and like others it is really frustrating me that my training is being curtailed as i feel quite unwell after some sessions-worse time I had mild wheeze after really busy day in pool with kids lessons going on. I have tried anti histamine and beconase with bit of reduction in severity in cough.
    but am now going to try a nose clip as a couple of others seem to have had success with this.Also going to speak to club manager about people who seem to go between the sauna and pool a lot ie: large amts sweat...
    There seem to a number of pieces of research on the respiratory health of swimmers.
    This paper from Canada is interesting and bit worrying :
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/a ... 4/art00003

    Will report back on my progress.
  • A nose clip has cured runny noses/eyes for me!
  • shadowone1shadowone1 Posts: 1,408

    since I know the two pools that piglet is swimming in then I can say for certain that the problem lie with one of the pools - the citadel.... really?? Do people still swim in the pee infested pool?

    Last time I was there, there was more plasters on the bottom of the pool than tiles.... as for Bannantynes.... you'd need to get passed the junkies (muscle junkies) to get in there.... lol

    Just kidding...piglet I'm very local to you btw...

    I suffered terribly with this and for me the only thing that seemed to work was nose clips. Everytime I took them off then I got the sore eyes and runny nose..... now I never swim without them.
  • Thanks thats interesting. Tried noseclip but cough is worse than ever within 2-3 hours of swiming.Have contacted the manager of the David Lloyd club and asked re chloramine levels in the pool and highlighted the muscle marys who use the pool as a plunge pool post sauna ...we'll see.
    Meantime I am going to try the public pool I used to use (at ironically) a 1/3 the price of David Lloyd to see if it is a pool specific problem.
    Might brave the sea -only a mile from me with wetsuit but still pretty damn cold for a not well covered triathlete....
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