Why do I have skin bumps after swimming?

18 December 2014
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Category: First Aid
18 December 2014, Comments: 0

It cannot be denied that swimming provides a healthy way to have fun and exercise for both children and adults. Once an individual develops skin bumps after swimming, it might be a cause for concern. It is important to bear in mind that public swimming pools utilize chemical disinfection in order to keep the water safe but poor maintenance can lead to issues for the swimmers, including infections and skin reactions. Organic contaminants and animal waste can contribute to the algae and bacterial growth in ponds and lakes, thus causing skin issues after swimming.

Basics on disinfection

Pool water that is untreated is not safe for swimming. Chemical disinfection is vital in public facilities to neutralize bacteria and viruses as well as contaminants such as sweat and urine. Poorly maintained swimming pools have unbalanced pool water. Once the level of contamination overwhelms the current chlorine level in the water, the by-products from the disinfection process called chloramines accumulate and cause skin irritation such as the skin bumps. When the bacteria multiply in poorly treated water, the individual can suffer from skin issues.

Skin bumps

The skin bumps might only be a temporary irritation or a symptom of an infection that entails treatment.

What are the indications?

The skin bumps might only be a temporary irritation or a symptom of an infection that entails treatment. The rashes that vanish after showering with water and soap can indicate sensitivity to the chemical disinfection procedure in the pool water. As for the elevated skin bumps that do not seem to go away, it can indicate a viral or bacterial infection. Take note that both conditions require medical care because even if they vanish on their own, you will know the appropriate steps to avoid aggravating the condition or spreading it to others. If you want to learn how to manage these conditions, read here.


Sensitivity to treated water can cause contact dermatitis which leads to irritated and reddened skin, oftentimes with elevated skin bumps.

Swimmer’s itch is another skin condition that leads to red-colored and elevated skin bumps or even blisters on the skin. Take note that parasites in the infected water are responsible for causing this condition. After a week, the condition usually resolves.

A virus is responsible for causing molluscum contagiousum which causes skin bumps that oftentimes contain pus. The virus enters the skin through a cut or abrasion. If the individual scratches these bumps and touches other parts of the body, it can spread. It will take a few weeks for the condition to resolve.

Folliculitis is caused by bacteria that usually thrive in warm spa water. It can lead to the formation of skin bumps on areas that are covered by swimwear. The bacteria could not survive on healthy skin outside the warm water, thus the condition typically resolves quickly.


The ideal way to avoid swimming-related skin issues is to avoid the source of the irritation. Any bacterial or virus infection acquired from public pools must be reported. Take note that crowded facilities will put an individual at higher risk for disease while properly maintained facilities are generally safe.

Considerations to bear in mind

Remember that pool water is not the only source for infections. Open waters such as ponds and lakes also harbor bacteria and protozoa. The brackish warm waters are ideal breeding grounds for protozoa and bacteria.

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