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Chlorine Allergy

Chlorine Allergy

Chlorine aversion is not something that is seen very commonly in people. However, there have been cases where people have experienced severe symptoms. This article will give you information on the symptoms of chlorine allergy along with the treatment and preventive measures.
Deepa Kartha
Last Updated: Apr 12, 2018
The halogen chlorine is one of the most abundantly found elements in nature. Elemental chlorine (Cl2), a greenish yellow-colored gas was first produced by Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Today, we use it in a variety of forms. Chlorinated compounds are widely used to prepare bleaches, soaps, detergents, disinfectants, sanitizers, pesticides, solvents, paints and plastics, and the list can go on. Most common exposure is through swimming pools and chlorinated tap water. However, these compounds are capable of causing temporary irritation as well as long-term allergies.
Acute Exposure
Chlorinated compounds and their byproducts are the causative agents for irritations and allergies. In swimming pools and showers, their interaction with organic substances like our sweat, urine, etc. results in the formation of monochloramines, dichloramines, and trichloramine which are potent irritants. The commonly observed reactions are:
► Eye irritation and dryness along with a scratchy and gritty feeling in the eyes
► Allergic or chemical pink eye (conjunctivitis) characterized by redness, swelling of eyelids, tearful eyes, and blurry vision
► Itchy and dry skin. It may also be accompanied with rash and peeling of skin
► Sneezing and coughing
► Temporary chest pain and difficulty in breathing
► Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a burning sensation in the gastrointestinal tract
Mixing cleaning agents containing chlorinated compounds with nitrogenous compounds results in the release of chlorine or chloramine gas. The inhalation of this gas causes instant toxicity as well as tissue and lung damage. A high level exposure can cause the following severe conditions as well.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
It is a typical allergic reaction that results due to an immune response to the allergen. It is characterized by the development of rashes, red patches, and blisters within 24-48 hours after exposure to chlorine.
Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
This term was coined by Brooks et al. to define an asthma-like condition that arises due to a single exposure to high levels of certain irritants. It is characterized by hyperreactive airways, thickening of the bronchial walls, and mild chronic inflammation. Wheezing and difficulty in breathing are the most common symptoms. These effects are only partially reversible.
Reactive Upper-Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RUDS)
RUDS is a chronic rhinitis-like condition resulting due to acute exposure to irritants. The hyperreactivity is restricted to the upper airways. It is characterized by sinusitis but generally there is no difficulty in breathing.
Prolonged Exposure
► Long-term exposure to chlorine poses the risk of asthma, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, nasal allergies, and chronic bronchitis. The sensitivity of the respiratory epithelium to other allergens present in the air increases due to a chronic exposure. The risk is about tenfold higher in atopic people. Children have an increased risk of developing respiratory tract and ear infections.
► In addition to this, occupational exposure causes dermatitis, persistent cough, and wheezing. It might even lead to lung injury and respiratory toxicity. The symptoms may vary depending on the exact compound a person is exposed to. Such occupational exposure is observed in people involved in cleaning and chlorination of swimming pools, workers at chlorine manufacturing plants, water treatment plants, pulp bleaching, and textile bleaching industries.
Preventive Measures
► Identify the common symptoms and adopt preventive measures accordingly. For example, people who commonly experience eye irritation should use appropriate eye wear.
► To prevent skin problems one must avoid the use of soaps and detergents with chlorine, or use impervious gloves while using bleaching agents.
► It is safe to swim in pools where chlorine has not been used for disinfection in order to avoid skin rashes and ingestion of chlorination byproducts. Taking a shower before and after swimming also helps to reduce skin irritations.
► People who have breathing problems should try to avoid exposure or use a mask if the use of chlorinated products is unavoidable.
► Use of chlorine filters for taps, showers, and drinking water will help avoid constant exposure and ingestion of chlorine compounds at home.
First Aid Measures
► In case of eye irritation, quickly rinse the eyes and the area around the eyes with clean water. Eye drops can be used to reduce the dryness and redness.
► If a skin rash is observed, remove the contaminated clothing and rinse the area with water.
► On accidental inhalation of fumes, loosen or remove the contaminated clothing. Move to an area where you have access to fresh air. Seek medical help instantly in case you notice any signs of cyanosis - a bluish discoloration of the skin.
► If chlorinated compounds are accidentally ingested, rinse your mouth with water. Vomiting must not be induced.
Note: If the preventive measures are not effective in your case, or the first aid measures do not provide relief, consult your physician or seek medical help instantly.
Treatment
There is no specific treatment or antidote for chlorine allergies. Getting rid of the irritant and treating the specific symptoms observed is the only way out.
Compounds containing chlorine can cause mild eye and skin reactions to severe respiratory problems in case of chronic exposures. The ideal way is to avoid exposure or take the necessary preventive measures and be alert for any abnormal conditions. Identify the risks and decide your measures accordingly in order to deal with such allergies.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.