Swimming and Eczema: What Parents Should Be Aware Of

Swimming and Eczema: What Parents Should Be Aware Of

For many families, swimming is a beloved activity, offering both fun and exercise. However, for children with eczema, hitting the pool can pose challenges. Eczema (a.k.a atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, dry and inflamed skin. While swimming can have benefits for overall health, the combination of chlorine, water, and other factors in the pool environment can aggravate eczema symptoms. As parents, it's essential to be aware of how swimming can affect your child's eczema and take necessary precautions to ensure their skin remains healthy and comfortable.

The Impact of Chlorine on Eczema

Chlorine is generally used to disinfect pool water and maintain its cleanliness. While chlorine helps kill harmful bacteria and prevent waterborne illnesses, it can also strip the skin of its natural oils. For children with eczema, whose skin barrier is already compromised, this can lead to further dryness and irritation. Additionally, some children may be more sensitive to chlorine, exacerbating their eczema symptoms upon exposure.

Factors that Aggravate Eczema during Swimming

Chlorine Exposure: As mentioned earlier, chlorine is the primary culprit that exacerbates eczema symptoms during swimming. It can cause redness, itching, and a burning sensation on the skin.

Heat and Humidity: The warm and humid pool environment can lead to increased sweating, which may irritate eczema-prone skin.

Friction: The constant movement and friction in the water can irritate already sensitive skin, making it more susceptible to flare-ups.

Water Quality: Apart from chlorine, other pool chemicals and impurities can also contribute to skin irritation.

Tips for Parents to Manage Eczema during Swimming

Pre-swim Preparation: Before heading to the pool, moisturize your child's skin with a thick, fragrance-free emollient. This helps create a protective barrier between the skin and chlorine, reducing the drying effects of the pool water.

Choose Swim Times Wisely: Try to avoid swimming during peak hours when chlorine levels may be higher due to increased pool usage. Opt for early morning or late evening swims, if possible.

Shower Before and After Swimming: Have your child shower with the fresh water before entering the pool. This can help hydrate the skin and minimize the absorption of chlorine. After swimming, rinse the skin thoroughly to remove any residual chlorine.

Use a Barrier Cream: Apply a barrier cream to areas of the skin that tend to be more affected by eczema, such as elbows, knees, and the face. This extra layer of protection can help prevent chlorine from directly coming into contact with the skin.

Hydrate from Within: Encourage your child to drink plenty of water before and after the swimming to stay hydrated, as chlorine exposure can lead to skin dehydration.

Choose Eczema-Friendly Swimwear: Opt for swimwear made from soft, non-irritating materials. Rinse the swimwear thoroughly after each use to remove chlorine residues.

Post-Swim Skincare Routine: After swimming, pat the skin dry gently with a soft towel and immediately apply a moisturizer to lock in hydration. Look for products specifically designed for eczema-prone skin, preferably fragrance-free and without harsh chemicals.

Consider Non-Chlorinated Swimming Alternatives: If your child's eczema is particularly sensitive to chlorine, consider exploring alternative swimming options. Look for swimming pools that use saline or mineral-based systems, which can be gentler on the skin compared to traditional chlorinated pools. Natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, might also be more tolerable for some children with eczema.

Consult a Dermatologist: If your child's eczema symptoms worsen after swimming or if you have concerns about managing eczema during pool visits, consult a dermatologist. A dermatologist can provide personalized advice and recommend suitable skincare products for your child's specific needs.


Swimming can be a delightful activity for children, but for those with eczema, it's crucial for parents to be aware of potential triggers and take necessary precautions. By implementing pre-swim and post-swim skincare routines, choosing optimal swim times, and considering non-chlorinated swimming alternatives, parents can help their children with eczema enjoy the pool while minimizing skin irritation. Remember that each child's eczema is unique, so observing how your child's skin responds to swimming and adjusting your approach accordingly can make all the difference in maintaining their skin health and ensuring their swimming experiences are happy and itch-free.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can swimming worsen eczema in children?

Yes, swimming can worsen eczema symptoms in some children. The chlorine used in pools can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to increased dryness and irritation. Additionally, the warm and humid pool environment, along with friction from constant movement in the water, can exacerbate eczema-prone skin.

2. Is it safe for children with eczema to swim in chlorinated pools?

While swimming in chlorinated pools is generally considered safe for most children with eczema, parents should take necessary precautions. Pre-swim moisturizing, post-swim showers, and protective measures like barrier creams can help minimize the impact of chlorine on the skin.

3. How does chlorine affect eczema-prone skin?

Chlorine can disrupt the skin's natural barrier function, leading to dryness, redness, itching, and irritation. In children with eczema, whose skin barrier is already compromised, chlorine exposure can worsen their condition and trigger eczema flare-ups.

4. What can parents do to protect their child's skin during swimming?

Parents can protect their child's skin during swimming by applying a generous amount of moisturizer before swimming to create a barrier between the skin and chlorine. Additionally, showering with fresh water before and after swimming, using barrier creams, staying hydrated, and choosing eczema-friendly swimwear can help manage eczema symptoms.

5. Are there alternative swimming options for children with sensitive skin?

Yes, there are alternative swimming options for children with sensitive skin. Some swimming facilities use saline or mineral-based systems that may be gentler on the skin compared to traditional chlorinated pools. Parents can also consider swimming in natural bodies of water like lakes or the ocean, which may be less irritating for eczema-prone skin.

6. Can swimming in saltwater worsen eczema?

Swimming in saltwater may have a different effect on eczema-prone skin compared to chlorinated pool water. Some children may find saltwater soothing and beneficial for their eczema, while others may experience increased dryness or irritation. It's essential to observe how your child's skin responds and take appropriate measures.

7. How can parents manage eczema flare-ups after swimming?

After swimming, parents should rinse their child's skin thoroughly with fresh water to remove any residual chlorine or pool chemicals. Gently pat the skin dry and apply a moisturizer immediately to lock in hydration. If eczema flare-ups occur, consult a dermatologist for personalized advice and treatment.

8. Can children with eczema enjoy swimming without exacerbating their condition?

Yes, children with eczema can enjoy swimming with proper care and precautions. By following a pre-swim and post-swim skincare routine, choosing suitable swim times, and considering alternative swimming options, parents can help their child have an enjoyable and eczema-friendly swimming experience. Always monitor your child's skin and adjust the approach as needed to ensure their skin health is maintained during swimming activities.

9. Can swim goggles help protect the eyes and facial eczema during swimming?

Yes, swim goggles can be beneficial for children with facial eczema. Chlorine exposure can irritate sensitive skin around the eyes, leading to discomfort and exacerbation of eczema symptoms. Wearing swim goggles can create a barrier that helps protect the eyes and the surrounding skin from direct contact with chlorine.

10. Is it necessary to consult a dermatologist before allowing a child with eczema to swim?

While it's not always necessary, consulting a dermatologist can be helpful, especially if your child's eczema is severe or difficult to manage. A dermatologist can provide personalized advice, recommend specific skincare products, and address any concerns related to swimming and eczema. If your child's eczema symptoms are well-controlled, following the recommended precautions may be sufficient. However, if you have any doubts or if the eczema is causing significant discomfort, consulting a dermatologist is recommended.