Swimming Side Effects
Jumping in the pool can help you stay in shape and cool off on warm days. Swimming is also a non-weight-bearing exercise that utilizes most of your muscles, making it effective for both cardio and muscular endurance. Despite its benefits, swimming can cause a variety of side effects that range from mild irritants such as itchy skin to more severe side effects such as bacterial infections.
Effects on Your Lungs
Although chlorine is used in swimming pools to kill bacteria, it can cause problems of its own. A 2003 article published in the “National Sports Medicine Institute” cited numerous studies finding that chlorine increases the risk of asthma and impaired lung function. Chlorine can also aggravate respiratory problems and poses a greater risk to children, who have an underdeveloped immune system. Avoid swallowing pool water, and shower before and after each swimming session with a natural soap to prevent chlorine from irritating your skin.
Getting an Itch
Absorbing chlorine in your skin can make it itch. This usually occurs when the pool contains a high concentration of chlorine. When this occurs, wash your body with natural soap to remove the chlorine. Swimming or wading in shallow water, especially where birds tend to gather, may give you "swimmer’s itch," which is caused by parasites found in snails. This itch often comes with a rash: red pimples that may appear within 12 hours, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. Avoid scratching the rash and apply corticosteroid cream or baking soda paste to the areas affected. The rash affects only about a third of people who come in contact with the parasites, it's not transmittable between people, and goes away on its own.
Water can remain in the outer ear canal after swimming, and some people may harbor bacteria which leads to an infection known as swimmer's ear. In the beginning stages, swimmer's ear causes mild discomfort and itching, which is aggravated by touching or pulling the infected ear. The pain worsens as the infection spreads; fluid or pus drainage is common. Eardrops or antibiotics are often prescribed to treat symptoms. If caught early, the infection won’t advance. Keep your ear dry and clean to avoid getting the infection.
Dry Hair, Wet Hair
Swimming can also cause hair dryness. Chlorine reacts with your hair, leaving it brittle and dry. People with chemically treated hair, such as from perms, relaxers or color treatments, are prone to chlorine damage, according to Columbia Health. Apply conditioner before you swim, and wear a swimming cap. The head gear doesn’t keep all the water out of your hair, so shampoo after swimming, and dry your hair with a blow dryer on a medium or cool setting. Avoid rubbing your hair with a towel or brushing it after swimming, as it may cause breakage, particularly when you have thin hair. Rather, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle your wet hair after you apply conditioner.
Frank Yemi has been a professional writer since 2007, and has contributed to several health and fitness magazines. He has worked as a medical fact checker and sports nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Yemi holds a Bachelor of Science in medical physiology, as well as a Master of Science in applied sports nutrition.