Swimming is a great way to get the physical activity you need to stay fit and healthy – if and only if your swimming environment supports your well-being.
Most private and public pools are kept safe and clean using chlorine, a chemical used for disinfection. Though it is an accepted method of pool sanitation, chlorination, especially when taken in excess, can be dangerous. As chlorine levels go higher, the pool water becomes more toxic to humans and can cause a few health risks.
1. Respiratory Problems
A number of studies found that chlorine has an adverse effect on one’s respiratory health. The most common health risks of chlorinated pools are obstructive airway problems, specifically asthma, and competitive swimmers, who tend to be exposed to chlorinated pools on a regular basis, are likely to suffer these problems.
A rule of thumb: if you can smell the chlorine in the pool area, the concentration is high and, therefore, is unsafe. The body can easily absorb chlorine both by skin contact and inhalation of chlorine fumes. With this, people who swim at indoor pools are at a greater risk since these areas have inadequate air circulation.
Researcher Arthur J. Williams, MD, of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, advised swimmers to look closely at the chlorine levels they are exposed to before hitting the pool. After inhaling chlorine, flush out the toxic gas out of your system by inhaling fresh air and taking a quick shower as soon as you stepped out of the pool.
2. Skin Infection
Have you ever felt the urge to scratch your skin after stepping out of the swimming pool? Over-chlorination may be the culprit. Swimmers tend to develop rashes and irritated skin when the pool water pH becomes unbalanced due to over-chlorination. The chlorinated water can also lead to dry skin since it strips off the natural oils of the skin, causing it to itch and dry out.
Worse problems arise when you take shower for granted. If you fail to shower and remove those excess sweat and dirt before you swim, you put yourself and other people at a greater risk once the contaminants interact with chlorine and cause irritated skin.
If your skin is sensitive, or if you suffer from eczema or other skin disorders, you can protect yourself by wearing long-sleeved swimwears, usually made up of nylon or spandex. Refrain from wearing cotton suits for these are water absorbent. If rashes and itchiness occur, apply a corticosteroid cream or baking soda paste to infected areas.
3. Eye Irritation
A high concentration of chlorine causes swimmers to experience moderate to severe eye irritation. Swimmers may experience eye redness and irritation and burning sensation in nasal passages and mouth after inhaling chlorinated water.
Aside from over-chlorination, the bloodshot eyes can also be caused by the urine and sweat contained in the pool, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed. Other foreign bodies such as plasters and grit can also get in contact with the eyes, worsening the condition.
You can prevent eyesore, itch, redness, and discomfort by wearing safety goggles. Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, also suggests to buy a pool tester and keep the chlorine level between 1 to 3 ppm.
4. Hair Damage
Short and occasional exposure to chlorinated pool water will just make your hair dryer for a day and won’t bring drastic damage. However, if you swim in chlorinated pools regularly, you allow the disinfectants to strip off natural oil from your hair which leads to further dryness and damage.
Swim caps, like the silicon one, are used by competitive swimmers to prevent hair damage. These caps won’t keep your hair from getting wet but can make a huge difference in protecting your hair from harsh pool chemicals.
Are there alternatives?
If you want to disinfect your pool without the use of chlorine, there are other alternatives you may consider. Alternative methods in keeping the pools disinfected include salt water system, peroxide-based chlorine alternative, and silver-copper ion generators.
Saltwater systems are both economical and good for the skin, peroxide systems are more gentle to the eyes, skin, and hair, and silver-copper ion generators can kill more bacteria and contaminants. Depending on the type of system you use, chlorine alternative pools can be more beneficial to your health, especially when you have allergic reactions to chlorine.
Despite her busy daily routine, Carmina Natividad still manages to find time for a little self-pampering. Aside from hitting the pool during the weekends, she also finds interest in writing articles focused on health and wellness. She is now one of the writers for Swimprint, a go-to shop for swimming enthusiasts in the UK.