Your Eyes Turn Red At The Pool Because Of Pee — But Don't Panic

Photographed By Michelle Drewes.

Update: Contrary to popular belief, if you're swimming in a pool that reeks of chlorine, that is not necessarily a good thing, experts say. According to a new survey from the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the The Water Quality and Health Council, only 5% of Americans know that a pool's chemical smell comes from chloramines, which are chemical irritants that form in pools when bodily fluids mix with chlorine. And this is a sign that the pool might need to be re-treated.

“It’s understandable why most people think that a chemical smell means there is too much chlorine in the pool, but the truth could be the opposite,” said Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality and Health Council in a press release provided to Refinery29. “To help prevent chloramines from forming where you swim, shower before swimming and take little swimmers on regular bathroom breaks.”

To learn more about how chloramines affect you, continue reading our original story.
This article was originally published on June 10, 2015.

Last summer, we learned that it's totally fine to pee in the ocean. This summer, we've found out what makes peeing in a pool very, very different.
You've probably heard since childhood — hopefully, at some point, you stopped having to be told — that you should never relieve yourself while swimming in a pool. While that advice mainly comes from a place of good manners, it also has to do with how urine (and other bodily fluids like sweat) interact with chlorine. After diving in, your bodily fluids mix with the pool water and, before they can dissipate, bind to the chlorine that's already there.

These irritants can cause red eyes and itchy skin, so it's important to regularly test a pool's chlorine and pH levels and treat it if necessary. If it's a public or hotel pool, you should alert the pool manager to any strong chemical smell, since that's a sign of high chloramine levels.
The good news: Most people know not to pee in the pool, and more often than not, the real culprit here is sweat, not urine. (We'd like to hope it's more common, anyway.) But, that not-so-potty-trained toddler in the lane nearby might have also played a role in why your eyes are suddenly red and irritated.

The next time you hit the pool, just try to set a good example: Use the designated restrooms. And maybe don't open your eyes when you go under.

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