A clean pool is a happy pool. Most of the time, people associate a swimming pool with the strong chemical smell of chlorine. It sanitizes the water and is relatively inexpensive… but what if someone is allergic to chlorine?

Using Chlorine in the Pool 

Well-maintained water should be the goal of any swimming pool or hot tub owner. Of course, that can be easier said than done. That’s where chlorine comes to the rescue. From the home pool to the public community pool, chlorine can help to balance the pH levels and alkalinity of the water.

Basically, chlorine helps to keep your water crystal clear by preventing slime, algae and other potential hazards. It kills bacteria and germs and controls any organic debris that can get in the water, such as sweat or body oils.

Can Chlorine Hurt Your Eyes?

Most pools should have about four ppm of chlorine. This can be easily measured with pool water test strips. Typically, these strips evaluate chlorine, pH and acidity levels in your pool water.

Of course, chlorine won’t work for everyone. It is crucial to limit the levels of chlorine in the water. Too much can hurt any swimmer’s eyes by drying them out. To make matters worse, some swimmers are actually allergic to chlorine.

How to Tell if You’re Allergic to Chlorine

If the chemical levels in the water are balanced, but there’s still discomfort, this could be a sign that a swimmer is allergic to chlorine. Here are some of the symptoms of chlorine allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology:

Skin sensitivity to chlorine can present the following symptoms:

  • Skin redness, tenderness, inflammation, and/or itchiness at the site of contact
  • Skin lesions or rash
  • Scales or crust on the skin

Hives (urticaria) share some of these symptoms (itchiness and redness), but are accompanied by raised patches or bumps with well-defined edges. Hives may appear suddenly and may grow in size.

People with asthma, EIB and allergic rhinitis, who already have sensitive airways, might also have the following symptoms:

  • Coughing, especially at night, with exercise, or when laughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A tight feeling in the chest
  • Wheezing a squeaky or whistling sound
  • Runny nose
  • Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion

Additionally, this is an informative video about the topic:


Above all, be sure to consult a doctor if you believe you are allergic to chlorine. There is no substitute for licensed medical advice.

Finding Solutions

In the unfortunate case when a swimmer is allergic to chlorine, there are other options. In the next section, let’s take a brief look at some alternate chemicals that can help keep your water clear.

Alternatives to Chlorine


After chlorine, one of the most popular choices for a home pool is saltwater. As you can guess, saltwater cleans the pool using, well, salt. That said, it’s not just salt. While this process uses less chlorine than an all-chlorine pool…it does still rely on the chemical to work. Keep that in mind when it comes to allergies.

For its positives, saltwater pools tend to require less maintenance than a chlorine pool. Saltwater is also gentler on swimmers’ hair, skin and eyes. Finally, it also tends to be less harsh on pool toys and swimsuits. To learn more, read our full article about saltwater pools.


Up next, let’s talk about bromine. Bromine is a great alternative for people who are allergic to chorine. This chemical works very similarly to chlorine to keep your water clear. Unfortunately, it does have a drawback. Bromine comes from the same halogen chemical family as chlorine, so it is possible that someone who is allergic to chlorine may still have adverse reactions.


The last alternative we’ll discuss today is polyhexamethylene biguanide, or PHMB. PHMB is the only real way to completely eliminate chlorine from your filtration system. If you’ve never heard of PHMB, it’s highly possible you know it better by its popular brand names, like Baquacil or SoftSwim.

Overall, it is much gentler on the eyes. This chemical works by penetrating bacterial cell walls, causing them to burst. The chemical then wraps these loose particles in a “heavy” gel that sinks to the bottom of pool. There, a vacuum can remove them from the water. It’s more complicated than the other systems, but is a great alternative for anyone who suffers from allergies.