If you suffer from eczema, you’ll want to do everything possible to avoid a flare-up of the condition. Eczema is often caused by dry skin that becomes rough, tight, or damaged, leading to itchiness and redness. If you are prone to outbreaks of eczema, does swimming help the condition or make it worse?
A couple of studies into the effects of swimming on eczema have found differing results, however. A review of a study by the BMC found a link between reduced symptoms in younger sufferers and swimming.
Another study from the Internation Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found something slightly different. It focused on a wider group and showed that frequent swimmers, as well as lifeguards, were more likely to have problems with eczema.
Causes of Eczema
The pH levels of the skin are important to how dry the skin is. Most of the skin on the body will typically rand from 4.1 to 5.8 pH, whereas water in swimming pools is normally between 7.2 and 7.8 pH. This difference in pH levels can increase how dry the skin is, making eczema more likely.
The acid mantle is the part of the skin that does the job of keeping moisture and essential lipids in. It is also responsible for stopping bacteria, toxins, and pollution from entering the body through the skin.
Since the water in swimming pools is around neutral and more alkaline than the acid mantle, it changes the pH of the skin. This has the effect of drying out the skin which can lead to eczema.
Added to the problem of the pH level in the water, calcium found in the water can degrade the skin barrier. This is particularly a problem in hard water areas and is likely to increase dry skin and itchiness.
The chlorine added to swimming pools is also thought to make the symptoms of eczema more likely. There is other research that suggests that saltwater is another factor that can trigger skin irritation. Though this isn’t the case for everyone who suffers from this problem, some people report that a swim in the sea actually helps.
How to Reduce Eczema When Swimming
Taking a shower after a swim in a pool should remove some of the problems, but barrier creams are an effective option. Barrier creams contain ceramides and lipids that are naturally occurring on healthy skin. They keep the skin moister and aid healing. There should be a reduction in dry and itchy skin as a result.
It is also advisable to protect the skin when outdoors with sunscreen. This will reduce the negative effects of UV light that can damage and dry the skin. This is a recommendation that everyone should really be following whether they suffer from this problem or not.
Also, after taking a shower or a bath after swimming, gently patting the skin instead of rubbing with a towel is better. Moisturizer or ointment should be carefully applied to the skin after washing. This should increase the chances of avoiding drying the skin that could trigger an eczema episode.