Pool Safety

Too much chlorine can cause kids' skin and eyes to burn. We tell you what to do to ease the irritation.

Q: My daughter loves being in our neighbor's pool, but the chlorine seems to irritate her skin. What can we do to help her?

A: This is a common problem today, when chlorine levels in pools tend to be higher than ever in response to growing numbers of new viruses and bacteria. "The thinking is the more chlorine, the better, but that's not necessarily the case," says Lynn McKinley-Grant, M.D., a Chevy Chase, MD-based spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology. "Chlorine can cause skin and eyes to itch and burn."

To combat this reaction, it's important to rinse thoroughly after being in the pool, says Dr. McKinley-Grant. A quick shower with lukewarm water and mild soap ought to be enough to wash away the chemicals. It's also helpful for children to wear goggles, but if they're reluctant to do so, they can rinse their eyes with cool water post-pool.

You may also want to limit the amount of time your child spends in the water. If you notice her skin becoming irritated when you reapply her sunscreen -- which should happen after she's been in the pool for about half an hour -- she should stay out of the water for the rest of the day.*

*Editor's note: "Sometimes, if the chlorine is too low and a lot of people are using the water, this causes irritation too," says Joan B. Rose, chair of the Water Quality and Health Council and a professor of water research at Michigan State University in East Lansing. If your child experiences an itching or burning sensation while swimming and you suspect that insufficient chlorine is the culprit, she should bathe immediately and stay out of the pool until it's been properly tested.

Alkalinity and pH in addition to chlorine concentration are involved in water quality, so balance is key to a healthy pool environment. To learn more about creating the proper chemical balance, visit the Water Quality and Health Council or call the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals at 800-323-3996 for a copy of the booklet titled "Residential Pool Chemical Guide."

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Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2002 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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