Health & You: 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.


Health & You: Asthma & Swimming — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Is chlorine safe for those with asthma?

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