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If you experience eye irritation after swimming in a pool with chlorine in the water, you could be having an allergic reaction. Eye allergies are uncomfortable and can cause blurred vision. They're also common. In fact, reports show one in five Americans suffers an allergy that affects the eyes.
See an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye examination to determine whether your symptoms are due to an eye allergy or other vision problem. Your eye doctor needs to know your eye history, symptoms, and when they occur before discussing the treatment options available for managing chlorine allergy.
You don't always have to swim in a pool to suffer symptoms. Sometimes the fumes from chlorinated pools are enough to trigger a reaction. Even small amounts of chlorine present in municipal water supplies can cause eye irritation -- a common symptom of chlorine allergy -- when you shower or bathe.
Symptoms of chlorine allergy include:
Red, watery eyes
Dry, itchy eyes
Eyes that sting or burn
Loss of eyelashes
Although complications related to eye allergies are rare, report any vision loss or eye pain that doesn't go away after a few hours to your doctor or eye care specialist.
Why Symptoms Can Be Delayed
Typically, chlorine allergy symptoms are delayed; therefore, you may not immediately experience a reaction upon contact. Symptoms often don't appear until sometime after you are done swimming and get out of the pool.
Chlorine allergy is a cell-mediated allergy. That means it takes time for the antibodies to mobilize and trigger an immune response following exposure to the antigen, which in this case is chlorine. The response isn't immediate since the body's defense system needs time to recognize the invader and produce the specific antibody to fight it.
Rinse your eyes with water to stop burning or itching. Although you may be tempted to rub your eyes when they itch or burn, rubbing can irritate them more.
Apply cold compresses to help relieve dry eyes. Soak a clean washcloth or small towel in cold water; wring out the excess water; and close your eyes before applying the compress.
Use over-the-counters or prescription medications to relieve eye irritation. Antihistamine eye drops reduce redness, itching, and swelling. Use caution when taking oral antihistamines to treat allergy symptoms, as some can make you drowsy.
Decongestant eye drops are another treatment for reducing redness and itching. Since they are vasoconstrictors that narrow blood vessels, decongestants relieve eye redness.
Even though decongestant eye drops are available without a prescription, talk to your eye doctor before using them. If you use them for an extended period of time, you can suffer rebound eye redness and swelling. They can also make other eye problems, including glaucoma and eye infections, worse.
Mast cell stabilizer eye drops prevent eye allergy symptoms by stopping the release of histamine -- a substance immune system cells release during an allergic reaction.
Avoid swimming in pools with chlorinated water. Alternatives to chlorine for cleaning a swimming pool include inonizers, bromide, and ozonators -- substitutes that won't irritate your eyes.
To learn more, contact a company like Naples Optical Center Inc. with any questions you have.