Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sjogren's and Swimming Pools

Image by konr4d

A reader recently asked if the chlorine in a swimming pool could increase symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome, specifically stinging and burning. She didn't specify where these symptoms occurred - I'm guessing the chlorine affected either her eyes or skin, or possibly both. 

Great question. 

First, I want to commend her for the reason for her question - she is spending as much as an hour each day in a swimming pool. Kudos to her for the commitment to exercise!

I would love to say that I hit the pool every day too, but then I would be telling a big fat fib......actually I think I'm doing the world a favor by not frightening small children with the image of myself in a swimming suit. 

Ew. Back to the question at hand: 

Chlorine, the disinfecting agent used in most public swimming pools, could definitely make Sjogren's eyes and skin - already parched thanks to autoimmune dryness - even more dry and irritated.  

Some suggestions: 

Skin: Consider applying a moisturizer to your skin an hour before going to the pool. Shower immediately after leaving the pool, using a hypo-allergenic soap and cool water. Sometimes Sjogren's skin can become irritated simply from exposure to very warm water, such as may be found in some heated pools and hot tubs, and cooling the skin down may help. A shower will also remove residual chlorine from the skin. Follow the shower with a moisturizer. 

Eyes: Before entering the pool, moisturize the eyes with your favorite preservative-free eye drops. Consider using swim goggles to decrease contact of pool water with your eyes. After leaving the pool, irrigate the eyes again with eye drops. 

If the pool is outdoors, be aware that sun exposure is difficult for many Sjoggies, so be sure to apply a sunscreen, and if possible, avoid long exposures to direct hot sun. You can read my previous post about sunshine and autoimmune diseases here

If after consistently swimming in a public pool or using a public hot tub, you develop a rash, or your eyes become increasingly red or inflamed, consult a doctor. Unfortunately, it is possible to contract eye, skin, and other infections, called recreational water illnesses by the CDC, while utilizing a public swimming pool. You can read more about RWIs here


Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

Thanks for the tips!

Jet City mom said...

Some pools in Seattle have salt water- but I haven't had a chance to try them out- supposedly not as many chemicals.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I avoid the highly chlorinated pools because they burn my eyes. Shoot, they burn my kids' eyes too for that matter.

The sunshine thing is up to debate in my mind. A little seems good because vitamin D deficiencies are common in some autoimmune diseases as well. I guess living in a rainy climate means I don't have to worry too much about it.

(Lupus is another thing entirely, I understand. I speaking more to my symptoms.)

Anonymous said...

I never thought about this! It makes sense as to why my skin is so itchy after swimming in hotel pools. They must really use a lot of chlorine and I'm sure it irritates my skin. I'll be using your tips for sure.

Unknown said...

I know I am way late on this but feel I need to defend the chlorine issue. I have my own pool and have taught swimming for 38 years. It is not the chlorine that irritates the skin or eyes. It is either what is called chlorimines (bound up chlorine that isn't doing its job) or it is the pH being off. I run my pool at a high level of chlorine but keep my pH balanced and all my swim kids and I swim with our eyes open and use no goggles. Just a bit of FYI. Hotel/motel pools are awful for having a chemically unbalanced pool.

Unknown said...

New to Sjrogens. Just joined our local YMCA. Nervous but I need to do it. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

I have Sjorgens but recently noticed very dry eyes and skin and very snotty straight after swimming for about a day like a head cold
This has not happened to me before