baby swimming

Can Swimming Make My Child’s Eczema Worse?

Now that summer is here, are you worried about the pool affecting your child’s sensitive skin? Read on to learn how swimming affects your child’s eczema.


Swimming and Eczema

As any parent of a child with eczema knows, skin irritation can be unpredictable. One day, your child looks the picture of health with no blemishes, and the next an unknown culprit has left rashes and discomfort in its wake. While there are a variety of things that might cause your child’s eczema to flare up, there is one question that often plagues parents as they prepare for warmer weather: How will swimming affect my child’s eczema? While there is not a cookie cutter answer to this question, there are things to consider as summer approaches.

Saltwater vs Chlorine Swimming Pools 

In recent years, salt water pools have come on the scene, giving pool owners (and goers) another option. Salt water pools are designed to convert salt to low-levels of chlorine. The system creates just enough chlorine to keep the pool clean without over chlorinating the pool and its inhabitants. 


Chlorinated pools, on the other hand, are a little more chemical heavy and are maintained through tablets and a careful rationing of chemicals by the owner or pool company. What parents are finding is that some kids do better in salt water pools and some in chlorinated pools.


The truth is, there is no way to know which type of pool your child’s skin prefers without trial and error. While chlorinated pools seem to be more chemical heavy, the same chlorine is contained in bleach. Many eczema patients find that bleach baths help soothe their skin, which means a chlorinated pool might actually soothe your child’s skin rather than irritate it. 


On the other hand, your child’s skin might do better in a saltwater pool, since the chemicals are less dense. 


The best way to decide if the chemicals in the pool are helping or hurting your child’s skin is to let him get into the pool for a short amount of time, then have him sit out for a while so that you can assess if his skin is irritated. This will help you catch irritated skin before it gets worse. Then you can assess which type of pool is best for your child and make an effort to frequent those types of pools this summer. 

Before Swimming

Because swimming can be irritating to the skin, there are some things you should do before swimming. Most of us could actually benefit by doing the following things before diving in.

1. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Since pool chemicals can dry out skin, it is always a good idea to apply moisturizer to your child’s skin before swimming. Some even recommend applying petroleum jelly to provide an extra level of protection against the chemicals present in swimming pools. In either case, making sure your child’s skin is as hydrated as possible before swimming is a great way to protect his skin. Remember that if swimming outside, you will also need to apply sunscreen. To make sure the sunscreen is effective, apply the moisturizer thirty minutes before applying the sunscreen. This will help both to absorb completely, ensuring they are both effective in protecting your child’s skin. 

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking a lot of water is always a good idea, both for those with eczema and those without. Making sure to drink plenty of fluids before swimming is a good way to hydrate your child, as well as keep him healthy while spending a lot of time in the sun. Making sure to start the swimming session with hydrated skin will help keep it from drying out, which can prevent rashes and other skin irritations. 

After Swimming

Just as there are some helpful habits to consider before swimming, there are also some things you can do after swimming that will encourage healthy skin and fewer skin irritations. 

1. Take a Bath or a Shower

Washing the pool water off of your child’s skin right after swimming is a good way to keep the skin healthy. The longer chemicals sit on the skin, the more likely they are to cause rashes, irritations, and eczema flare ups. 


While taking a bath or shower ought to be a simple solution, parents of children with eczema already know that nothing regarding the skin is straightforward. Sensitive skin requires a sensitive touch, even when it comes to bathing

  • Avoid a hot shower 

Hot water can irritate skin, especially if it is already compromised by chemicals that need to be washed away. Start with a warm shower and gradually make it cooler, making sure to keep the temperature comfortable and not too hot. 

  • Try adding these soothing items

If you decide to give your child a bath instead of a shower after swimming, try adding apple cider vinegar, oatmeal, or baking soda. In addition to bleach baths, these things have been known to help soothe eczema skin when added to bath water. 

2. Moisturize – Again

While you should always apply lotion before swimming, it is also important to moisturize the skin after swimming. Swimming dries out the skin, and this is especially true for those who have eczema. Making sure to replenish the moisture that is lost during pool time will help keep the skin healthy and avoid the redness and irritation. 

When to Avoid Swimming

Though swimming can be a fun and even soothing activity for kids who have eczema, there are a couple situations where it should be avoided. 

  • Avoid swimming if the skin is irritated or inflamed 

If your child is in the middle of an eczema flare up or has any kind of rash, it is a good idea to forego the pool until the skin is clear. Additionally, any open wounds can become more irritated by the chemicals present in swimming pools. 

  • Check the temperature

Water that is too warm can irritate the skin. You might want to call ahead to check the temperature of the pool water before taking your child to swim. Heated pools are becoming more and more common, especially in some parts of the country, and might be especially irritating to your child’s skin.

Benefits of Swimming

Even though there are some downfalls to getting in the pool with eczema, there are some benefits to swimming that make the extra precautions worthwhile.  

1. Swimming Strengthens the Heart and Lungs

Research shows that a large percentage of kids who develop eczema as children will go on to be asthmatic. Swimming can help strengthen your child’s lungs and heart, making them better equipped to deal with asthma symptoms should they arise as your child grows. Even if your child never develops asthma, he will still experience the health benefits that go along with swimming as a child. 

2. Chlorine Can Kill Bacteria

Since chlorine kills bacteria that can irritate skin, it is possible that swimming in a pool may help kill irritating bateria before it has a chance to wreak havoc on your child’s body. It’s sanitizing qualities can help prevent a flare up before it happens. 

3. Swimming Opens Up Other Opportunities

As your child grows, he may find that he wants to do various activities that require getting into a pool. Birthday pool parties, swim team, or training for triathlon-type races are all fun activities that require swimming. Eczema is something your child deals with day in and day out, and learning how to manage that issue in a pool setting is important in helping him grow and thrive. Encouraging your child to try different pools, moisturizers, and other products will help him discover what helps, what hurts, and how to navigate the water safely. 

4. Better Sleep

Many parents will attest to the fact that children sleep better after a day of swimming. Children with eczema can have trouble at night when itchy skin tends to be at its worst. After a couple hours of swimming, your child may sleep better, helping him sleep through itchy spells and get a good night’s rest. 

The Bottom Line

Swimming is beneficial to children for a variety of reasons and is a normal part of childhood. Eczema, while inconvenient, does not have to prevent your child from enjoying the joy of getting into a pool with friends or family. While chlorine can sometimes irritate skin, it also has benefits that can help your child’s skin, and the same is true for saltwater pools. To determine which type of pool is more friendly to your child’s skin, simply pay attention to how his skin reacts to each setting and take extra precautions if one seems to be more of an irritant than the other. 


While there are times to avoid swimming, and there are some things you should always do both before and after getting into a pool, there is no reason a child with eczema cannot enjoy the pool this summer.



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