Swimming for Asthma, Indoor Chlorine – A Balancing Act
(Photo: Flickr user Marcelo Terraza)
My daughters were born and raised in coastal Florida, right up until we drove halfway across the country to move to Colorado in February 2009. They’re both excellent swimmers even though they’ve never taken a lesson. Instead, they grew up in the Gulf of Mexico and in our backyard pool, where floating in a swim ring gave way to splashing around with arm floats gave way to the little kid’s drowned-rat doggie paddle gave way to actual swimming and, in my firstborn’s case, diving.
Now we’re landlocked for the first time in their lives and mine, and we live somewhere with a true winter. So although I’ve written about the chlorination of indoor pools as a trigger before, I lived in Florida and the issue was objective and intellectual for me rather than personal.
The Problem with Indoor Chlorinated Pools
My original post, with links to research and a summary of my own position back when AG was nine, in 2008.
Chlorination and Outside Pools
Research suggesting high chlorine levels aren’t just a trigger inside, either.
And to Play Devil’s Advocate, a Meta-Analysis of the Pool/Asthma Studies
In January 2009, I published this article by another writer. In it, he examines a new study giving more insight into the connection between asthma and indoor pools. If you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll find my comment reviewing the review and its relevancy to my kid.
Where I Am Now
The Denver area maintains a massive system of community parks, trails, and recreation centers with indoor pools. While the girls use them occasionally, we don’t swim there year-round the way many families here do.
For one, besides the typical childhood opportunities for team sports or dance lessons, this area offers nothing if not boundless opportunities for outdoor recreation and exercise. The Front Range of the Rocky Mountains lie directly to the west. My house, at the foot of the foothills, is literally a several-minute drive from more hiking trails than you can imagine. And the further west you go, the hills and sandstone cliffs gradually lead to the towering, wide-open mountain ranges and national parks my state is famous for.
Plus, I like living seasonally. It’s one reason I moved here, where winter means sledding, snowboarding, and skiing, and summer holds the promise of hot sunny days and swimming. Kids are all about the instant gratification so mine probably disagree with me on this point.
Finally, if you visit that last link above, you’ll read this – and I apologize for quoting myself here, but there’s no way around it – in my final comment:
I have no way to tell whether that trapped chlorine is inflaming her lungs and setting her up for flares LATER, even if itâs not making her actively flare at the time.
Asthma is different for everyone. What triggers one personâs flare may have no effect at all on another person. If you want to let your asthmatic child try an indoor pool, Iâd say your best bet is to try it out with no expectations and go very, very prepared with appropriate medication/inhalers. Maintain informed vigilance. If she never flares, great! And if she does have problems, then youâve a got a decision to make, whether the year-round pool experience is worth pre-treating and risking flares for, anyway, or if you should just limit swimming to the summer and outdoor pools and/or beaches, rivers, and lakes.
So far, Iâve opted for that last option.
In the Future
Who knows? My asthmatic daughter wants to join a swim team, and I’ll probably let her. A Florida childhood gives her an advantage that has her swimming circles around the other kids, so how can I hold her back?
But when she was younger? And spent most of her days flaring or inflamed already? Adding regular use of a heavily chlorinated indoor pool? Forget about it.