What Happens if You Swim in a Shocked Pool?

Shocking a pool is a necessary part of being a pool owner. Maybe this is the first time this year that you’re opening your pool and it looks a little green, or perhaps you had a huge pool party last week, and now, the pool doesn’t smell so great. There are many reasons to shock your pool. 

Because many pool shock chemicals contain chlorine, you need to be especially careful about when you shock your pool and how long you wait to swim in it. Jumping in too soon can be a recipe for all sorts of potential problems. 

When Is It Safe?

Let’s first understand what pool shock is and how it works. Pool shock isn’t just regular off-the-shelf bleach–it’s a highly-concentrated form of chlorine that’s approximately double the strength of the store-bought variety. Shocking a pool with chlorine obviously leads to a serious spike in chlorine levels, but many may not know that the time of day you shock your pool is as important as how much shock you use. 

It’s very important to only shock your pool after the sun has gone down, as this allows the chlorine ample time to mix in and bind with the water overnight. Shocking your pool in the daytime allows the powerful UV light from the sun to break down the chlorine before it has a chance to mix with the water. If you know why pool shock is so expensive, you certainly don’t want to waste any by allowing it to evaporate before it has the opportunity to work. 

To mitigate these effects, in addition to shocking your pool at night, you should wait a minimum of twenty-four hours and test the pH and chlorine levels before going for a swim. 

What Happens if I Swim in a Shocked Pool?

Let’s not cause undue panic—if you swim in a shocked pool, you will likely be fine. However, here are some of the symptoms you may experience:

Irritated Eyes

Everyone swam in a pool and noticed a strong chlorine smell and had their eyes burn. People falsely assume this is because the pool is over-chlorinated. Ironically, that chlorine smell and eye-burning sensation you get in some pools isn’t due to too much chlorine, it’s due to too little, as the chlorine has bound to bacteria instead of the water and become chloramine. Still, too much chlorine can mess with your eyes in much the same way. 

Dry Skin and Rashes

Anyone who has spent time cleaning with bleach knows that your hands can easily dry out and become irritated if you aren’t wearing gloves. Imagine your whole body is immersed in heavily chlorinated water, and you can see the problem. Those with sensitive skin may be especially vulnerable to rashes and itchy, flaky skin. 

Lung Irritation

Chlorine evaporates into the air when exposed to UV light. If you shock your pool at night, the UV light the next day is going to evaporate off the extra chlorine. This is exactly what’s supposed to happen the day after.

The problem is that evaporating chlorine can enter your lungs if you swim in the pool too soon. Getting chlorine vapor into your lungs can be extremely dangerous and can cause a variety of health effects. Typically, the effects are mild if the chlorine isn’t too concentrated, but if you experience shortness of breath or a strong burning sensation, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

What to Do Afterwards

If you swim in a pool too soon after it’s been shocked, jump in the shower as soon as possible and rinse off completely with plenty of soap and water. Use a bit of lotion to soothe your dry skin after, and you should be fine. If you continue to experience symptoms and discomfort, it might be best to visit a doctor. Still, the vast majority of people will be okay as long as they get out of the pool and rinse off quickly!

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