Since discovering how incredible it feels to swim in fresh water over the last few years I always wished I could get my own wetsuit. I always assumed they would contain latex but this year I now have my very own wetsuit which I don’t react to. I’m so excited to start doing more wild swimming.
Why swim in fresh water if you have eczema?
So many reasons people; apart from the obvious one, it’s exhilarating and feels amazing, here are my top reasons why fresh water or wild swimming is great for eczema skin:
- No chlorine – Chlorine can irritate and dry out sensitive skin so fresh water wins hands down
- Cold – The change in temperature to being in cold water is absolutely amazing at calming skin and reducing inflammation. Check out the Wim Hof technique to find out more about the benefits of cold water therapy.
- Reduces anxiety – Once you can get over the terrifying fear that you can’t see what’s below you in the depths and maybe reeds and things touching your skin… ewww! Seriously, once you’ve got into the water the tranquility and relaxation I experience is like nothing else. Obviously you need to find a quiet lake to swim in, but it’s so freeing. I lay back and look at the sky and my body just relaxes.
- Exhilarating – Getting into cold water is a shock to the system. The first dunking of the intimate parts and then the shoulders is both shocking and then absolutely mind blowing. You soon start to acclimatise – depending on how cold the water actually is. If you’re swimming in skins ie, no wetsuit, make sure you don’t say in for too long. Get out as soon as you feel cold and get warmed up. If you’re in a wetsuit, the cold water slides in between your skin and wetsuit and creates a warm barrier around your skin, meaning you can stay in the water for much longer!
- Stops me itching – probably the cold shock of getting in, the effort it takes to stay afloat, the concentration of swimming, the shared joy of doing it with friends – I never swim alone. Unless you are very experience never swim alone and always wear a bright coloured swimming cap and float to make sure you are visible to boats and other water craft. Back to the itching, I just don’t itch while I’m in cold water and it feels amazing. By contrast swimming in heated chlorine pools can make me very itchy.
I still sometimes get a bit nervous about swimming in fresh water. It’s often tricky to get into the water with stones to hobble over and slimy rocks and who knows if it’s polluted? Will it irritate my skin? I do worry, but if you make sure you choose places you know are safe it’s a truly liberating experience.
Last month I took my swimming costume with me on a walk and swam in Rydal lake, half way round the walk. WoW – honestly that was on my bucket list of crazy things I wanted to do when my skin was healed and it was incredible. I loved it!
You can’t always swim all year round in the UK, not in just swimming costume anyway. Whilst many people do dip in just skins, they can’t stay in for long. So the subject of wetsuits come up… and how do I find one that’s safe for my sensitive skin?
Do wetsuits contain latex?
Wetsuits are made from neoprene which is naturally latex free, so are they safe for people with a latex allergy? Neoprene wetsuits are made from petroleum oil and limestone so there is an environmental impact to their production and disposal, but with careful use these should last you for up to ten years. Here are few questions to ask if you’re looking to buy a latex free wetsuit:
- Glue and adhesives – They can also contain adhesive in the seams and this glue can also be an irritant. If you have a latex allergy the chances are most plasters and many glues will cause irritation, I have to guy hypoallergenic plasters as all of the adhesive glues cause a complete breakdown and blistering of the skin. Check out 100% Sheico suit which uses solvent free aqua based glue www.sheico.com
- Latex in cuffs, ankles and neck buffs – Some wetsuits do contain latex in the cuffs and ankles and collar buffs, so if you have a latex allergy be very careful to check.
Always ask the manufacturer for a guarantee that the product you wish to buy does not contain any latex.
As you all know by now, people can be allergic to anything. Since Neoprene is a man-made fibre, invented to mimic rubber, some people do experience an allergic reaction or irritation when wearing them. Whilst neoprene allergy is rare it can be problem if you love watersports.
Reactions to neoprene include itching, rashes and swelling.
There is an alternative material called Yulex which is safe for anyone allergic to neoprene and should also be OK if you have a latex allergy. Since it’s actually made from rubber and also more expensive I didn’t go down this route for myself.
Yulex allergen free wetsuits
This purified natural rubber latex used in Yulex wetsuits significantly reduces impurities naturally found in rubber production, especially those allergens that cause potential for Type 1 Latex Allergy.
Yulex also has way less carbon footprint because it’s natural and plant based.
They are however a little bit more pricey, with a full arm and leg women’s Yulex wetsuit coming in at between $400 and $500.
Guayale allergy – can you be allergic to a Yulex wetsuit?
I also found a thread on a forum from someone who had a bad skin reaction to a Yulex wetsuit. They’re made from the Guayule plant which can be a severe skin irritant for contact dermatitis and cause a serious itchy skin rash. I can’t find any other evidence of this but maybe try to get a sample swatch to test.
Someone somewhere can be allergic to anything, don’t go out into open water before wearing any wetsuit for at least ten minutes to make sure it’s not irritating your skin.
Swimming and diving with asthma – is it safe?
If you have asthma there is always a higher risk for outdoor swimming. Even people who don’t have asthma can experience anxiety and panic whilst out in deep water and it can affect breathing. This is the reason why swimmers should always take a float, ideally wear a wetsuit and never swim alone.
I do have asthma and have not had any problems swimming. If you’re careful and take the right precautions.
- Don’t swim in open water if your asthma is bad and you feel wheezy
- Always take a float
- Never swim alone
- If you have a wetsuit wear it for added buoyancy
- Always take a puff of your blue inhaler before swimming
- Be careful what wetsuit you buy. I borrowed a sailing wetsuit once which was very restrictive and did make it hard for me to breathe. If you have a swimming one you should be OK.
- Relax your shoulders and breath gently, in through your nose and out through your mouth if you become anxious and start wheezing while on the water. Tell friends, ask for help and make for shore immediately. Back stroke can be easier if struggling to breathe.
Stay safe guys!
I actually find swimming to be a relatively low impact (I’m not a fast swimmer) activity and as I get fitter it helps me feel stronger and will help lungs to function more effectively.
Other things to consider with water sports and latex allergy
- Water shoes – Be careful when choosing water shoes as many of them are rubber. You can buy neoprene socks for swimming
- Goggles – The strap can be made from rubber elastic so make sure you do your research and find a latex free alternative.
- Swimming cap – Some of these are also made from rubber. Shop around and buy one made from neoprene or silicone.
- Scuba diving – There are many potential sources of latex in diving equipment, from the bungee neck chord to the tubes and mouthpiece. The strap on the mask
Which latex free wetsuit did I buy?
I would like to thank my aunt for taking me wetsuit shopping. They are not cheap items to buy and I probably would have taken much longer to take the plunge without Ro’s encouragement and support. Thanks Ro! We went to the wonderfully helpful Swim the Lakes in Ambleside in the Lake District and were assured that the Blue Seventy wetsuit was latex free. I’m waiting to receive confirmation of the full material breakdown as I’m interested to know what it’s made from. It does have a strong rubbery smell. You should be able to purchase a basic first timers neoprene wetsuit for under £200. This may sound expensive, but if you take care of your wetsuit it should last you ten or more years.
What’s it like swimming in a wetsuit?
I was so thrilled to enjoy an hour swimming in Lake Windermere, having not managed to get to the shops till the last day of the holiday! It made such a difference, for me the most amazing part of wearing a wetsuit was the added buoyancy. I found that I barely needed to even tread water to stay afloat, and it kept me high in the water when swimming. The buoyancy element of the suit was focused on the torso so I did find it slightly more challenging to do breaststroke. Interestingly, most wet suits are designed for front crawl and back stroke. However, I worked out a way of incorporating breaststroke and managed to enjoy this hour-long experience without getting cold at all! Switching between back stroke and breaststroke meant I could enjoy the view and conserve my energy. I have no direction when doing back stroke so keep veering off route and need to check all the time. The water in the Lakes is so warm this summer due to the incredibly good weather we’ve been having so I almost didn’t need a wetsuit.
Get out of your comfort zone and try fresh water swimming
Get out here, if you want to swim in fresh water, do it! I highly recommend the experience. Do check pollution levels and choose lakes with special swim sessions, and always swim with others.
I’d love to try the Wim Hof technique, but it seems to encourage excessive water use which puts me off. The idea being immerse your body in very hot water, then cold for as long as you can, then hot and then cold again. You extend the length of time under cold water and it reduces inflammation and anxiety. I do end each shower with a cold burst though and it feels so amazing. Try it if you haven’t already. Hot showers can trigger an itch attach for me so ending with cold water helps avoid that.
Are you a wild swimmer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Do you love swimming outdoors or do you steer clear because of your skin or fear of the deep dark down there!
I’d love to hear your experiences and hope you found this blog useful.
Have you had an allergic reaction to a wetsuit?