While there is currently no cure for asthma, there is effective treatment on managing the condition, and research is ongoing. Certain factors are known to make a person more likely to develop the disease (and to exacerbate the symptoms): a family history of allergic diseases, smog and air pollution (both indoors and outdoors), second-hand smoke, and workplace exposure to irritating substances such as grain dust. Now, another lung irritant is making headlines: pool chemicals.
Chlorine and asthma link
Belgian researchers have found a link between the use of indoor pools treated with chlorine and rates of asthma, according to a study in the June issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The chlorine reacts with ammonia in bodily fluids such as sweat and urine to create a chemical that appears to be harmful to the lungs. Previous studies have also shown that chemicals present in swimming pool environments can irritate the lungs of both adults and children, although not everyone will show symptoms.
"The sensitivity of people to these exposures will vary depending on the health of the individual," says Mary-Pat Shaw of the Canadian Lung Association, noting that children tend to be more sensitive than adults. However, she adds, "experience shows that indoor pools do not cause symptoms for many people."
Limit pool time for sensitive kids
Shaw recommends that parents be aware of the potentially harmful effects of swimming pool chemicals on their children's health, and keep an eye out for symptoms. She says that very sensitive children -- such as those with asthma or other breathing difficulties -- should not be taken to indoor pools. And while there are no safety guidelines for maximum exposure times, Shaw says to limit time spent in indoor pools, especially for younger children.
Page 1 of 2 -- On page 2, learn how you can prevent illnesses from swimming in the pool.
As for outdoor pools, while no studies have been done to compare the air quality, it seems likely that chemical exposure would be lessened in an outdoor environment where wind is moving air around.
Asthma is a growing problem among Canadians, and if you or your children are experiencing symptoms, it's important to get diagnosed by a physician, get proper treatment and know your triggers.
Tips for a healthy swim
Here are some hints for keeping your kids healthy when swimming:
• In summer, choose to swim at beaches rather than swimming pools whenever possible, or in outdoor pools rather than indoor.
• If possible, choose a swimming pool that uses alternatives to chlorine for sanitation.
• Encourage pool administrators to consider alternatives to chlorine, and increased ventilation.
• Shower before entering a pool (this reduces the amount of sweat that will react with the chlorine), and encourage pool administrators to make this a policy.
• Limit the time you and your children spend in swimming pools -- don't make it an everyday activity.
• If your child has sensitive lungs and shows sensitivity to pool air, consider other activities.
Page 2 of 2 -- Discover the link between chlorinated swimming pools and your children's health on page 1.