Do you frequently swim train indoors?
Here are some tips to limit the adverse effects of chlorine on your skin and sinuses.
Do you suffer the chlorine?
The chlorine in swimming pools can be a real hazard to sanity and a trouble maker to health. ‘Issues’ can run from the itchy scratchies from dry and chlorine irritated skin and bothered sinuses to chlorine allergy, chronic sinus problems, asthma, breathing problems, or chest infections.
For some chlorine, a halogen on the periodic table, can have a negative impact on iodine status and thyroid health. This is a more serious topic that I will not be discussing in this post. If you are concerned please private email me.
If you are pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or suffering with thyroid or chronic health problems it may be best to discuss with a health practitioner ‘in the know’ the impact that chlorine may potentially have on your health.
I don’t recommend ‘just taking’ iodine as it is important to determine your need and optimise your dose and also to determine other individual and specific needs. I will aim to get a blog up on this topic and protecting yourself from the negative effects of chlorine on health and thyroid specifically.
It is always best when you can to get out swimming in the open waters.
However be warned that some inland waterways also come with bacterial, algal, or agricultural effluent problems or worse still sewage issues. KNOW where you are swimming and above all pay heed to safety!
See here for some tips: http://www.river-swimming.co.uk/safety.htm
Protect your skin – preparation
To protect my skin before I swim I use virgin coconut oil (Lucy Bee Extra virgin coconut oil but any quality brand will suffice) on my face or a skin ointment like Decleor or a skin oil such as marula oil, Kiel’s midnight oil, rose hip seed oil or similar and I plaster serum on my hair (a chemical free variety; these can often be picked up for a steal at TK MaXx).
There is a specific Philip Kingsley product called SwimCap however it is pretty pricey and Amazon.co.uk don’t ship to Ireland. I find plastering on the serum provides ample seal on my hair against the chlorine water.
For the men try coconut oil on your face and hair (yes the same organic coconut oil that you cook with) if you prefer something less fussy.
A tight fitting ‘proper’ swim cap holds the water out from your hair and ears more effectively than a material or looser cap and these are available from wiggle or amazon.co.uk if you would rather shop from home. I love my bright pink Maru solid silicone hat (lifeguards should spot me if I am drowning!) however this cap range may suit smaller heads rather than bigger ones as it is a snug fit on me and leaves me with a forehead line amongst the wrinkles.
Other good swim cap brands include Speedo and TYR.
Post-swim skin recovery
Post swim it is worth your while to use a chlorine neutralising shower wash or shampoo. I am currently road testing two and I will let you know how I get on. Some that I have found on amazon include: DGJ Organics Wild N Crazy Kids Blueberry & Coconut Swim All Over Wash (several ‘flavours’ available), Swimovate Pool Mate Anti-Chlorine Swimmers Shampoo, and Vosene Tear Free After Swim Hair/Body Wash.
Apparently two top brands are UltraSwim and TriSwim however neither are delivered to Ireland from Amazon.co.uk and so you may have to source from elsewhere.
Vitamin C based SwimSpray also looks interesting however yet again there appears to be supply issues to Ireland.
Update, the brand that I have settled on 2 years later is ZEALIOS SWIM & SPORT SHAMPOO and conditioner; it is brilliant. I no longer need to use moisturiser or serum. I guess your skin and hair adapts with time to tolerate the cholorine. Good job too! I order Zealios on amazon.com.
To keep my skin from the itchy-dry-crawling sensation of my dry skin stretching during the day I then apply a home-made body ointment made from organic coconut oil, organic African shea butter (Kuza 100% African Shea Butter CREAMY ) and aromatherapy oils (I currently am in love with the Vibrant blue oils and Young Living Oils brand; DoTerra is also excellent quality). This concoction has the thumbs up from my triathlon boyfriend; clearly it must be manly. I also use home-made oils mixing jojoba or rosehip seed or sweet almond oil with aromatherapy (rose citrus and spearmint are my go to blends).
If the pool chlorine is strong you may need to have a second shower when you get home and slather on the body oils then.
Tip: investing in a swim towel such as Maru or Speedo aqua dry sports towels saves you a whole heap of washing from pool water drenched towels and speeds up getting dry after the pool.
And so to sinuses:
Chlorinated pool water appears especially harsh on sensitive sinuses with irritation, sneezing and rhinitis reported. This is probably from the constant washing through the sinuses of chlorinated water while you are swimming and particularly when you raise your head to breathe.
The following may be of benefit:
Saline nasal spray or wash.
There are several available in pharmacies such as Sterimar, Neilmed, Nettipot etc. or AYR saline nasal gel may be more moisturising for those with dry sinuses.
Non-medicated “preventative” sprays such as Prevalin may help those with more allergy type symptoms: use BEFORE swimming.
I do not recommend allergy decongestant sprays such as Otrivine or Sudafed for this purpose and I suggest steroid sprays are considered only as a last resort as they can lead to thinning of the sinus epithelium, further irritation and also an increased chance of infections. Furthermore neither the steroid sprays nor the decongestant sprays are addressing the causative issue or targeting the treatment rationally.
If you are a drugs tested athlete never use a medicated nasal spray without first checking that it is safe for use in sport (i.e. NOT on the WADA prohibited list for this specific year) and/ or are armed with a therapeutic use exemption from a medical doctor.
Steam inhalations using hot water and optional aromatherapy oils may be beneficial. Here is a helpful article by Penny Keay.
If you feel that your sinuses are not quite right then I suggest an herbal or aromatherapy nasal treatment spray such as Pranarôm Science Aromaforce Bio Nose Spray, North American Herb & Spice Co. Sinu Orega, Nasal Spray, or a colloidal silver sinus spray. None of these are intended for long-term use as they should work to improve symptoms within 7 to 14 days.
If your sinuses really feel off you may have a chronic sinus/ nasal infection which should be correctly diagnosed and treated (especially if you are a triathlete and also on the bike a lot as this can lead to great discomfort cycling into the wind). Headaches, dizziness, heavy head, pain over the eyes, ears or cheeks, and an off taste dripping down your throat can be a tell-tale sign of a sinus / nasal infection. Also for some reason sinus infections can be really draining if you excuse the pun and lead to a surprising amount of fatigue. And on that topic of drainage (!) post-nasal drip can put you at risk of a chest infections… when in doubt get it checked out.
Tip: Cranial osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture can also be remarkably helpful for chronic sinus issues.
Should anti-bacterial treatment be required then I recommend a good herbalist or aromatherapist as your first call and failing this the GP for an antibiotic should the infection not be responding.
Herbs are also very helpful for allergy symptoms (to chlorine) in the absence of an infection.
… seek a highly respected and well spoken of therapist.
Best of luck and please add your personal comments and recommendations.
PS some other helpful articles:
and finally water related laughs