Health & Aging: Asthma & Swimming

drpool-med-bookIs there a connection between Asthma and Chlorinated Swimming Pool Water? Is swimming good for people with Asthma?

Asthma is a condition which narrows the breathing airways, making it harder to breathe causing wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

This article explains symptoms, triggers and how swimming can benefit asthma sufferers.

  1. Asthma Symptoms, Triggers and Risk Factors
  2. Does Pool Water Cause or Worsen Asthma?
  3. Swimming Benefits for Asthmatic Individuals

bluecrossAsthma Symptoms, Triggers and Risk Factors

What is Asthma? Asthma is the narrowing and swelling of airways. The airways produce extra mucus, and this can make it harder to breathe, can cause coughing or wheezing and can trigger shortness of breath. For everybody, there is a different level of problems with asthma. For some it is so bad that it can interfere with daily routines, while for others it is a minor issue.

While it cannot be cured, symptoms of Asthma certainly can be controlled. These symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, trouble sleeping caused by coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, and wheezing or coughing attacks. While it is not clear why some people are more prone to getting asthma, it is believed to be a mix of environmental and genetic factors.

Asthma triggers include airborne allergens such as pollen, mold and dust mites, allergic reactions to food, respiratory infections like a cold, physical activity, cold air, stress, and gastroesophageal reflux disease just to name a few. There are also factors that are believed to increase the chances of developing asthma. Risk factors include being overweight, smoking or exposure to second hand smoke, any blood relative that has asthma, and exposure to occupational triggers like chemicals used in farming and manufacturing.

bluecrossDoes Pool Water Cause or worsen Asthma?

There has been a significant amount of research done on possible causes of asthma in children, and one factor that is often considered, but never proven – is swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool. The hypothesis that chlorine in pool water – particularly in indoor pools, where ventilation is poor – can cause asthma to swimmers, remains unsubstantiated. Available evidence does not suggest that children should avoid swimming in chlorinated pools, and that there is no reason to keep children away from properly maintained pools.

It is believed that Trihalomethanes have been agitators of asthma and asthmatic symptoms in individuals that do not have asthma. Combined chlorine, aka chloramines can morph into a weak Trihalomethane. Inhaling Trihalomethanes and chlorine gases found near the water surface of indoor pools for a long amount of time can irritate areas in the eyes and nose, in addition to potentially causing asthma.

Studies show that chlorine is the best disinfectant available to a properly-maintained swimming pool, and that swimming in hygienic conditions in pools will outweigh potential risk of toxicity that can be linked to chlorinated pools. Additionally, there has no consistent association between the development of asthma and pool use during childhood. No definitive evidence supports the claim that chlorinated pool water can cause asthma.

bluecrossSwimming Benefits for Asthmatic Individuals

For those who have asthma, there are known benefits to exercising in a pool. For children who have asthma, any parent may be cautious about letting their child be involved with swimming. There’s no evidence or studies that show asthma symptoms increase from recreational swimming. Instead, swimming can make the asthmatic child feel better, and reduce frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

The warm and humid atmosphere of a pool can help many asthmatics experience comfortable breathing. Exercise is always good – as it improves overall health, mood and helps you sleep better. Exercise is just as vital for those who suffer from asthma, if not more so. Exercise strengthens the respiratory and circulatory systems.

Some asthmatics have exercise-induced asthma, which makes it harder to find an exercise that is not overly strenuous. Swimming is considered one of the best forms of exercise by many doctors (like me!). Because the air around the pool is moist and warm, it is easy to breathe. Swimming or water exercise is an activity that is not likely to trigger asthma, as compared to other land based exercise.

However, be on the lookout for red flags. If the condition of the water is poor, very low pH levels or very high chloramine levels could trigger asthmatic symptoms. If strong smells persist for three minutes or more, notify management and leave the pool area. Always keep an inhaler nearby just in case it’s needed.

Get your Swim On, America!

Dr. Pool

Dr. Pool


[1] “Asthma” Asthma Definition. Mayo Clinic. Web.

[2] “Asthma Symptoms” Mayo Clinic. Web.

[3] “Asthma Causes” Mayo Clinic. Web.

[4] “Asthma Risk Factors” Mayo Clinic. Web.

[5] Reiff, Fred. “The Question of Children, Swimming Pools and Asthma –  HealthyPools. Web.

[6] “The Connection Between Chlorine and Asthma.” Aqua Sana. Web.

[7] “Asthma And Swimming.” Web.

[8] “Seven Best Exercises for Asthmatics.” Health Central. Web.

Total Dissolved Solids in Swimming Pools

dog1Today’s topic is about something I unfortunately know way too much about! TDS, otherwise known as Total Dissolved Solids.

About three years after putting a pool in our backyard, we started having problems keeping a consistent level of chlorine in the pool. We would add bag after bag of pool shock, but each time we tested the pool water the chlorine reading would be non-existent.

We called our pool company, and they would come out and add more chlorine, but still nothing. Finally, someone thought to test the TDS level in the pool. It was at 5000 ppm!

What is TDS and When is it a Problem?

TDS, or Total Dissolved Solids, is the measure of the sum of all the substances dissolved in your pool water. Everything you add to the water increases its TDS, including chlorine, shock, water balancers such as pH increaser or reducer, algaecide, clarifiers, etc. Even swimming in your pool adds to your TDS level, with sweat, hairspray, deodorant, perfume and other substances coming off the bodies of swimmers. And everything that blows in on the wind or washes in from the rain also contributes to your TDS level.

What TDS level is OK for Pools?

Ideally, your TDS level should be under 2000 ppm. When it gets higher than this it can decrease the effectiveness of chlorine while also causing skin and eye irritation to swimmers and metal corrosion of your pool equipment. Cloudy water and scaly deposits occur more easily.

When your TDS level gets too high, you may notice an unpleasant salty taste to your pool water. This is because many of the chemicals that we use for pool maintenance contain sodium – water balancers such as sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium bisulfate and liquid chlorine shock (sodium hypochlorite).

How to Fix TDS Problems in Pools

Sad to say, there is no miracle product that will remove TDS from your pool water. The easiest way to lower your pool’s TDS level is to drain and refill it with fresh water, either partially or completely, depending on how high the level has become.

“Can’t I just run my filter longer to remove TDS?”  No, pool filters remove suspended particles in your pool water, but they won’t remove dissolved materials. There are pool water recycling companies in some areas which can pump all of your pool water through a reverse osmosis filter, returning it to the pool with solids removed.

“Won’t evaporation help reduce my TDS?” Actually, when water evaporates this increases the dissolved solids, until replacement water is added that is. Periodically adding fresh water to your pool will help keep your TDS level in check.

Backwashing your filter uses water from your pool which will then have to be replaced with fresh water. Splash out also causes a need for fresh water to be added to your pool. If you have a lot of kids playing in the pool, having water fights and splashing the adults, next thing you know you’re dragging the hose over to put in some more water.

At the end of the season when it’s time to close the pool, most people drop the water level of their pool so that it’s below the skimmer. The following season you add fresh water to bring the level back up.

Signs of a High TDS level in Pools

  • Frequent cloudy water problems
  • Scale and stains on tile and plaster
  • Trouble keeping chlorine level
  • Salty taste to water

How to Test for High TDS

safedip-digital-tester-smTo check if you have a problem with high TDS in your pool (2000 ppm or more) you can test the water with an TDS test meter (very accurate) or a TDS test strip (less accurate).

~ If your pool has frequent bouts of algae, cloudy water or trouble keeping a chlorine level, you may have too many dissolved solids in the water. TDS can build up in 3-5 years on pools that don’t add much replacement water, such as indoor pools, covered pools, or pools in arid regions.

Florence Jolly
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Funny Pool Store Stories

pool-store-2Owning a pool can be an amazingly fun experience! So can working in a pool store! Here are a few funny and true stories that we have experienced while working at the In The Swim pool store! Enjoy!

Pool Store Theater

Over the summer, we love to run pool-related movies in our pool store. We think it makes for a great experience for customers and employees alike. One customer felt so intrigued by the movie we played that he paid for all his items, and then took a seat in the store to finish watching the movie.

triple-lindy-smHe stayed till the credits started rolling and enjoyed every minute of it! What was the pool movie that so captured his attention? Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School”.

Get In The Swim!

We had a group of young friends come in last summer; stocking up on items for an upcoming graduation pool party. We like to set-up  aboveground pools in our stores to give customers a feel of what they are getting and also to put some pool accessories on display. Well, while one friend gazed at the pool, the other friends grabbed his legs and hoisted him over the edge of the pool!

stick_figure_mopping_floor_7281He was shocked and soaked but everyone, including the friend who was pushed in the pool, laughed it off. Except for the maintenance guy, who had to come in and mop the floor.

Baby Ruth in the Pool!

Speaking of having an aboveground pool set up in our store, one of our store managers likes to occasionally pull a prank on our pool store customers. Taking a page from a well-known movie, he’ll slip a Baby Ruth candy bar in the pool just for kicks. Many customers laugh out loud “Look, it’s a Baby Ruth!” and others come up to the front counter, and quietly say “Um, there’s something floating in the pool…”

caddy-shack-baby-ruth-in-pool-If we only had those hazmat suits, I could get on the overhead intercom “Attention, we have a code brown. Hazmat unit to the pool store!”, who’ll come rushing in to save the day!

Bubba the Awesome Possum

A customer who lives nearby in a heavily wooded area came in to our pool store with a possum problem. They discovered that a family of possums had been sucked into the skimmer and all but one baby had died. They decided to keep the baby and name him Bubba. Not known to be water animals, this little possum enjoyed playing with their son in the pool in an inflatable see-saw rocker. One morning Bubba slipped outside for an early swim before their son woke up. When he was not in his box, they checked the skimmer and sure enough, Bubba had been sucked in, and although very dizzy, he survives.

bubba-the-awesome-possumThe family came into the pool store for some ideas to keep Bubba safe, asking about tiny water wings! We set them up with a Skamper Ramp and a Skimmer Grille.

Robinson’s Racing Pigs

Every year we see a customer who drives over to our pool store to pick up several pool liners. Curious as to why, we came to find out that he used the liners for pig races at county fairs! As part of the race track, the piglets dive into and swim the length of a 24′ aboveground pool, called the Hogwash!

robinsons-racing-pigs-or-paddling-porkersRobinson’s Racing Pigs have appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and with Jay Leno, and are a popular state and county fair attraction all around the country.

Acts of Cow

We sell a lot of safety covers, and a lot of replacement safety covers. A few years back our safety cover team received a letter and a photo in the mail. It was from a customer who was absolutely distraught about damage to her pool cover she had purchased through InTheSwim. She wanted to know if it could be repaired, or if it needed replacement – and if it was still under warranty.

cow-in-pool-2As I recall, our safety cover guy told her “It is within the 10 year warranty period, but I’m afraid it doesn’t cover Acts of Cow.” They both had a good laugh, and the cover was able to be repaired (and the fence too!).

If you have a funny pool store story, Leave a Reply below – we’d love to hear your tales of fun or interesting pool stores.


Dana Katz
InTheSwim Staff Blogger

Supplement Gas Heat with Solar Heat

solar-pool-heatersPool owners everywhere know just how expensive it is to heat a pool. There are a few things that can be done to reduce heating expenses without taking a hit on pool comfort. Tighten up your budget for the pool by saving heating costs with some eco-friendly solar pool heating.

If you currently use natural or propane gas to heat your inground pool, you know that it can cost $1000 per summer to heat your pool. Install a solar pool heater, and slash your annual pool heating costs by up to 75%!


SOLAR-SYSTEMFor solar pool heaters, a flow control valve redirects the pool water through the solar panels. The design of the solar panel traps the heat of the sun, and transfers the heat to the pool water as it cycles through hundreds of tiny heat tubes.

When used with a solar controller (highly recommended), the control valve turns automatically, as directed by a thermostat and two sensors; panel temperature and water temperature sensors.


Inground solar pool heaters with a solar controller and all supplies typically costs $1500-$2000; plus a day of your time to install the panels. You will see a quick payback in 2 to 4 years however, as you cut your gas heating bills in half without even trying!

Solar heater systems have a longer life than gas pool heaters, and are virtually maintenance free. And, as you use your gas pool heater less, it will need fewer repairs and also last longer!

Before you make the decision to buy a solar pool heater to supplement a gas pool heater, let’s pre-qualify you as a candidate for solar pool heat.

  • Roof, Rack or Fence with unobstructed sun of 6 hrs. per day.
  • A southern orientation is best, although SE and SW work as well.
  • Size matters – the more solar panels, the more heat is created.

solar-rack-for-pool-solar-heaterSIZING A SOLAR POOL HEATER

For inground pools, a good rule of thumb is to install 50% of your pool area in solar panels to achieve a 15 degree temperature rise. For example, a 16×32′ pool has 512 sq. ft. of surface area (16×32=512), and should use at least 256 sq. ft. of solar panel surface area (512/2=256), for about 15° of heat.

Want more than 15° of heat? Install more solar panel square footage! solar-pool-heater-sizing-guideOther factors to consider include high winds across the pool, or cool nights in desert areas or high elevations. In these cases, using a solar blanket or an automatic pool cover will help retain the heat. Or, simply install more panels, and increase the 50% rule of thumb to 70% or so, to compensate.


Installing a supplemental solar pool heater is no different that installing one where there is no gas pool heater. In a nutshell, you will install a 3-way valve on the return line after the gas heater, and run a pipe to the solar panels. A second pipe will carry water back from the solar panels, and connect into the return line. A one way check valve is used to prevent water cycling.

SOLAR-SYSTEMIt is cheaper and faster if you can locate the solar panels on a roof or rack directly overhead of the pool equipment, but if needed, you can run pipes to solar panels located elsewhere.


save-money-on-chemicals - purchased thru PresenterMediaSolar pool heaters and gas pool heaters used together will have your pool comfortable all year around, without any discomfort about energy costs. With a dual heater system you’ll only need the gas heater at the start and end of the season, and once or twice during summer cold snaps.

You may even decide to open the pool earlier and close the pool later, and keep the water luxuriously warm – once you see all the money you are saving!


Alex Malamos
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


When is a Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

swim-lessons-kid-with-kickboardThis is one of the most common questions asked of swim teachers and aquatic pros.

In recent years, infant swimming programs have grown in popularity, with some children as young as 6 months of age being introduced to the water.

The key word being ‘introduced’ – at preschool ages most children will not have developed the motor skills necessary for swim stroke development.

Familiarity and improving comfort level in the water can begin at any age – the earlier the better. Infants are capable of learning novice skills such as floating, rolling over onto their back and basic motoring skills in the water.

Research Studies on Swim Readiness

Stephen Langendorfer, PhD has been studying aquatic readiness for many years and believes there are two main milestones that indicate readiness, namely age and individual experience. He states that a child with a backyard pool may be ready to learn to swim at an earlier age than those less often exposed to water.

“Children who are introduced to the water early, around age one – have greater movement quality in water and on land”.

He goes on to say that toddlers between the age of 2-4 years old are ready to begin the ‘exploration stage’ of learning to swim, and may stay in this stage for several years before progressing to formal stroke development. Formal stroke and skill development begins to rapidly improve at 5 years of age.

A 1995 Australian study by Blanksby, et al suggests that a mean age of 5.5 years as optimum for learning specific swimming skills, regardless of when they began. This led many parents to hold off teaching a child to swim until they were of school age. Other more recent studies by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) suggest that parents should wait until a child is 4 years old to begin organized swimming lessons, due to general developmental limitations. Asher (1995), found that children 3 years of age demonstrated significant water safety behaviors after 8 weeks of aquatic training.

“In a recent study, children who had formal swim training had up to an 88% reduction in drowning death (Brenner, et al, 2009)”.

There is little evidence to support a theory that infant and toddler swim lessons produces more advanced swim proficiency later in life, but the CDC, in response to the high rate of drowning among children under age 4, has stated that formal swimming lessons can help protect young children from drowning, when combined with constant supervision and effective barriers on or around the pool.

The Best Age to Teach Children to Swim

Aquatic familiarity training is suitable for healthy children of nearly any age, but one cannot expect this to ‘drown-proof’ the child, even for older children. Teaching kids to swim earlier will help to elevate a child’s comfort level and basic survival skills, and reduce their risk somewhat; however this could lead to a false sense of security for parents and child.swim-lessons-with-kickboard

The best way to improve safety around your home pool is with a three-pronged approach:

  • Annual swim lessons for 8 weeks every season
  • Effective pool barriers and pool security
  • Vigilant child supervision

When Should You Teach Kids to Swim?

Swim training can begin between the ages of 1-3 yrs old, and should be continuous and progressive for 5-10 years. Continue lessons every year until the child has attained full proficiency in swimming and water survival skills, and has a solid awareness of water safety.

swim-lessons-without-kickboardSee our SWIM COLLEGE swim lesson plans that you can use to plan swim lessons in your own pool, and teach your kids how to swim!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Staff Blogger