As parents, many of us are eager to know when we can first introduce our little ones to swimming and pool-based activities. We know that water safety and swim lessons are of high importance and often a recommendation for babies as young as six months. However, can our little ones get into the pool if they are struggling with a diaper rash? Is the chlorine going to harm them or is it safe for their healing skin?
Chlorinated water is generally safe for children, but some find that it hurts diaper rash while others think it helps mild cases. Regardless, it does contain byproducts that can irritate and dry out the skin so if your baby has highly sensitive skin or severe diaper rash then you will need to take special precautions or possibly skip the pool.
However, there are some options for protecting your little one so lets explore this topic together so we can all make the best decisions for our babies and families.
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Does chlorine irritate diaper rash?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as there is not a specific answer. After doing research and spending some time in online forums with other parents, there are mixed responses.
For us parents who have babies with highly sensitive skin, chlorine may make all skin conditions, including diaper rash worse. As skin dries out, becomes inflamed or itchy as a result of chlorine exposure, diaper rash may intensify and cause unnecessary pain and delayed healing.
However, many parents in online forums report that their babies are not affected by the chlorine. Some have even said that the chlorine exposure helped their baby’s diaper rash as it dries out the skin that is usually moist, overly irritated and inflamed as a result of the condition.
The best option is to trust your gut instinct and make the choice about if you want to expose your little one to the pool water. If the diaper rash isn’t bad and you feel comfortable swimming, then jump right in! If the diaper rash is worse than usual, then it may be best to skip the chlorinated water for a bit and let your little one heal.
At the end of the day, if your baby has a diaper rash they may feel just fine if they go swimming or their condition may worsen. Overall, from searching the internet or even consulting a doctor there is no way of knowing if chlorine is going to affect your baby’s diaper rash. Trust yourself to continue making the best, individualized decisions for your baby.
Is chlorine bad for babies’ skin?
Chlorine that is used to keep pools safe and clean, contains a byproduct called chloramine. This byproduct, while generally considered safe, is what causes skin or eye irritation when swimming in a pool as chloramine collects on the surface of the water. These byproducts, combined with the pH levels of a pool are likely to have an effect on the skin, even if it is minimal.
Babies are known to have more sensitive skin. This means that the chemicals may be more likely to irritate their skin as chlorine is known to have more significant effects on those with sensitive skin types.
Your baby may show some reactions to chlorine, however, this does not mean that chlorine is bad for your baby’s skin. Chlorinated pools are safe for babies and their skin as long as they are cleaned, maintained, and chemically balanced to preserve skin integrity and overall health.
Of note, it has been studied and reported by varying medical communities, that regular chlorine exposure in young infants and children may be connected to a risk of developing asthma, allergy rhinitis, and other allergy or lung conditions.
What does a chlorine allergy look like?
As parents, when we begin to see rashes or other forms of skin irritation, we often jump to thinking about potential allergies. However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies to chlorine do not exist. Individuals can be sensitive or have a reaction to chlorine, but cannot be allergic to chlorine.
While this may put some parents at ease knowing their little one does not have an allergy. What does this mean for those of us who have a baby with a sensitivity or reaction? What does this look like?
Similar to many allergies or sensitivities, a reaction to chlorine will be apparent on our little one’s skin. Reactions may also be evident in the respiratory system as chlorine can agitate respiratory conditions such as asthma or existing allergies.
Skin sensitivities will present with rashes, hives, or redness. Similarly, the skin may become dry and scale-like and or may become inflamed and itchy. If your baby or child has asthma or allergy-based rhinitis you may see symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, sneezing, runny nose, or congestion.
This is a short list of what the potential presentations of sensitivity or reaction may look like. As a parent, if you see any of these symptoms please reach out to your child’s pediatrician or follow up with an allergist to further discuss the symptoms and solutions depending on your child’s individual needs and health.
How can I protect my baby’s skin from chlorine?
When it comes to protecting our children we can take steps before chlorine exposure to help preserve their skin integrity.
Prior to jumping into the pool be sure to have your entire family rinse off in a shower. The water will create a natural barrier that will help keep the chlorine from being as deeply absorbed. The water will also rinse off any sweat that may combine with chlorine and create the same irritating byproduct that is naturally found in pools.
Another option to protect skin prior to getting into the pool is to apply a topical barrier. Whether it is a natural sunscreen (we absolutely love the All Good brand – you can find a lotion and stick combo right here), coconut oil, or a product such as Aquaphor, these products will create a barrier that will also help prevent the chlorinated water from being absorbed by pores on the surface of the skin.
Dealing with diaper rash in a chlorine pool
If your baby has a diaper rash and is still able to spend some time in the pool, there are several steps you will want to take to protect your baby and prevent the diaper rash from getting worse.
First, use an ointment like Burt’s Bees Baby Natural Multipurpose Ointment (that you can find here) in order to protect the rash and create a barrier between your baby’s skin and the water. Next, ensure that their swim diaper and swimsuit (if they are wearing one with their diaper) fit properly and are not making their diaper rash worse.
I created a whole resource on babies wearing diapers and swim diapers to the pool that you might want to check out here!
If your baby has frequent, severe diaper rash then another option is a neoprene swimsuit combined with a cotton diaper or wrap instead of the traditional swim diaper. Neoprene is a soft and gentle material that will be kind to their skin and will likely not irritate their rash any further. If you get a suit like this one it should also keep chlorine water out of your baby’s private areas. Unfortunately, the sizing on these doesn’t really start until the toddler age.
Last, be sure to wash your little one off once they are out of the water and reapply any ointments that were being used to treat their diaper rash. And as always, if your gut instinct is telling you to avoid the pool with your little one due to their diaper rash-let them heal and let their skin air out so they can get better as quickly as possible!
Do you need to wash chlorine off baby?
In addition to the steps we should take prior to swimming, one of the best ways for us to protect our baby’s skin from the effects of chlorine is to take care of their skin following exposure.
This means not only rinsing off after a shower, but using a baby-friendly body wash and shampoo to wash the chlorine off of our little one’s skin and hair. We should also follow up with a moisturizing lotion to prevent dry skin following exposure to chlorine.
Ensuring you have removed the chlorine and reapplied a hydrating layer will prevent chlorine from harming your little one’s skin and will help continue to heal their diaper rash while also allowing them to enjoy the pool!