If wading in the cool waters of a swimming pool during weekends is your idea of breaking from the monotony and humdrum of daily activities, then you are indeed a wise fitness freak, who combines leisure, hobby and exercise in an amazing way. And why not - swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises around with tremendous health benefits.
However there are certain tribulations that have to be faced. Most swimming pools, especially in the third world countries use chlorine as it is the cheapest and one of the most efficient ways of disinfecting the waters. The chlorine levels in the pool waters have to be monitored constantly and regulated carefully to maintain a recommended pH level. Correct levels of chlorine in waters don’t pose much of a health hazard. But if the level becomes too high, the water can become acidic and swimming in such over-chlorinated waters can cause many problems.
Our skin is very vulnerable. Water by itself can dehydrate the skin - excessive contact with water removes the thin oily film on the skin called sebum making it to lose precious moisture. And as far as soaking for long hours in hyper-chlorinated waters of a pool is concerned, the skin is subjected to the worst kind of abuse. Chlorine gets absorbed in the skin causing dryness, and even rashes, eczema and other allergies and skin diseases. If at all body lotions or ordinary sunscreens are applied to the skin prior to swimming, it can bond with these substances and cause undesirable and untoward reactions. Skin also tends to become sensitive and the possibility of getting early wrinkles, freckles, acne and other spots and blemishes cannot be ruled out. A few studies have also found that swimmers especially in indoor pools tend to have higher risk of developing asthma, as a result of high chlorine content and poor air quality around pools.
Chlorine also wreaks havoc on hair. According to this source, the chemical chlorine forms a bond with the protein in your hair and causes lot of damage. The bonding of chlorine causes the protein in the hair to breakdown making it dry, coarse, brittle and unmanageable. Chlorine bonding also gives hair a harsh chemical odor. Though all types of hair are susceptible, blondes notice the effects sooner due to their generally thin hair shaft. Brunettes have built-in camouflage but the damage still occurs. However, all hues of hair lose their healthy look, color and shine. Colored and dyed hair is also ruined.
Furthermore, the water in such swimming pools with excessive chlorine content can even erode tooth enamel, according to the data and studies mentioned in PubMed and some additional sources. Loss of enamel weakens teeth and makes them more sensitive to heat and cold. Symptoms of erosion include chalky or discolored teeth. In the early stages, fluoride treatments can help. In severe cases, teeth can be bonded with a chemical coating to strengthen them.
In addition to the dangers of chlorinated waters on your body, if excess water gets into the ear while swimming, it remains trapped in the ear canal which causes a condition called swimmer’s ear. It’s not such a cause for concern and usually heals on its own. Only severe cases have to be referred to a doctor. But one has to avoid swimming until completely cured.
Hence keep in mind the following points to minimize the health hazards while swimming and to make sure that it is friendly on your skin and hair.
* Remove all make-up, body lotion, sun cream, and hair products before entering the water.
*Always remember to shower before and after swimming in a pool using specially formulated shampoos used for that purpose. Hair is like a sponge absorbing water. So before you get in the pool, wet your hair with fresh water. That way, your hair won't absorb as much chlorine while you swim. All these precautions greatly help in minimizing the effects of chlorine damage on your skin and hair. You can also consider using baking soda during shampooing to remove product-build up from hair and from time to time treat your hair with this cucumber hair pack to rejuvenate it. Also remember to apply a suitable moisturizer to your skin after your swim and shower to combat dryness.
* Remember to wear swim caps to cover your hair.
* Be cautious of a pool that has a strong chemical smell.
* Swallow as little water as possible.
* Be aware of any irritation to your skin or eyes.
* Watch for any irritation, wheezing or any other respiratory problem that you may experience soon after swimming.
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