If you’ve just accidentally swam in a shocked pool and now your eyes and skin are irritated, you’re probably wondering if it’s going to get any worse.
Don’t worry, your skin is not going to melt off and you’re not going to go blind or anything drastic like that.
As long as you’re not regularly swimming in a shocked pool, what you’re already experiencing is par for the course, and you should rinse yourself off with freshwater to remove the chlorine on your body.
The main risks of chlorine on our health are the long-term effects it can have if you are regularly exposed to it (i.e. if you swim almost everyday). Aside from dry skin or a burning sensation in your eyes, you might also encounter respiratory issues like asthma or digestive problems.
Keep reading on to learn about the potential risks of chlorine and why you should not make it a habit to swim in a shocked pool.
Side effects of swimming in a shocked pool
Skin irritation (rashes, dryness, itchiness)
High chlorine concentrations can irritate the skin by causing dryness, itchiness, and even rashes.
Chlorine is intended to dissolve tissue, so jumping into a pool full of tissue dissolving chemicals is not going to feel great.
When you are swimming in a shocked pool, the topmost layer of your skin will be dissolved which causes a burning sensation. It is also absorbing water from you, causing dehydration and cracked skin.
This is an even bigger issue if you have sensitive skin to begin with. Dandruff is a common problem that occurs when the skin is dry and weak which causes it to flake off.
When too much skin is dissolved or flaked off, then the chlorine can reach deeper into your skin and cause rashes. You tend to see rashes around areas where the skin is very thin, such as the lips, armpits, and groin.
Eye irritation (red eyes, burning sensation)
Since chlorine can dehydrate things and your eyes need to be constantly moisturized, getting chlorine in your eyes is a bad combination.
This need for moisture also extends to the eyelids and skin surrounding your eyes, so they are also highly sensitive to chlorine exposure.
If you swim in a shocked pool, you will feel your eyes dry up which can cause itchiness, redness, and a burning sensation. That is why you should always be swimming with goggles.
Discoloration and deterioration of swimwear
This is not a health issue, but understand that chlorine can make quick work of your swimwear.
Not only will high chlorine concentrations discolor your swimwear, but it will wear down the material quickly.
In a similar vein, you should not be swimming in chlorinated water if you have dyed your hair recently, as many people reported that the chemicals had a reaction with the dye and changed their hair color.
Any chemicals, when consumed in large enough quantities, can poison you. When you have just finished shocking the pool, there may be a high enough concentration of it that ingesting a few mouthfuls of the water could be fatal.
If for some reason you or someone you know has accidentally swallowed pool water after you shocked the pool, call poison control right away.
Respiratory issues (difficulty breathing, asthma)
Chlorinated water releases fuses as it evaporates which can negatively affect your lungs. Chlorine fumes can constrict your ability to breathe, resulting in sneezing and coughing.
Based on both anecdotes and research, many swimmers have found that they develop asthma after prolonged and frequent exposure to chlorine.
Many swimmers rely on an inhaler to be able to breathe normally while swimming. If you already have asthma, it can aggravate the problem and make it worse.
Thankfully, most swimmers also report that after they quit swimming, their asthma went away and they no longer needed to use an inhaler.
Digestive problems (stomach pain, diarrhea)
If you accidentally ingest pool water, especially if it has high concentrations of chlorine, then this corrosive water will reach every part of your digestive system as it works its way through your body.
This can result in aches, nausea, dizziness, cramps, and diarrhea. If you feel like you want to vomit, it’s not a bad idea to induce vomiting on purpose to get the pool shock out of your system.
Afterwards, make sure to hydrate by drinking lots of fresh water to dilute any remaining chlorine in your system as well as flush it out faster.
If you feel like your systems are not getting any better, call poison control or see a doctor.
How soon can you swim after shocking a pool?
Follow the instructions on the pool shock you just used. Otherwise, pool experts recommend waiting at least 24 hours (1 full day) after shocking a pool before swimming in it.
To be perfectly safe, you can also use a pool test kit and measure if the free chlorine levels have reached 1-3 ppm, but 5 ppm is also a safe limit.
How to stop accidentally swimming in a shocked pool
How can you tell if a pool has been shocked recently without taking a dip in it and potentially exposing yourself to high concentrations of chlorine?
There are many easy ways to avoid swimming in a shocked pool. The advice I’m going to give here is very practical.
First, if you share a pool with many people, then you need to set a schedule for when you will be shocking the pool.
Make it clear to everyone that, for example, Mondays are when the pool is going to be shocked, so everyone should just avoid using the pool entirely on Mondays.
Communication is key. Making sure everyone is aware of when and how often you plan on shocking the pool can prevent many accidents. You can even put up a sign somewhere close by warning people not to go into the pool for that day.
Second, if you really aren’t sure whether the chlorine has dropped to safe levels, then you need a pool test kit to confirm it. Ideally you want the free chlorine level to be at 1-3 ppm, but it could also be as high as 5 ppm, though you risk experiencing side effects.
If you’re too lazy to test the pool or simply aren’t sure whether it’s safe to swim in, then you can just wait another day just to be safe.
Photo Credit: Dominik Moser (CC BY-NC 2.0)