Infection for your tiny swimmer?

Children who start swimming before the age of 2 may be at increased risk of a common infant lung infection, and possibly asthma and respiratory allergies later in life, a new study suggests.
The findings, reported in the European Respiratory Journal, add to evidence that exposure to chlorinated pools may affect children's respiratory health - particularly if they have a family history of asthma or respiratory allergies like hay fever.

Experts have suspected that the air quality around pools, particularly indoor ones, is to blame.

When the chlorine used to disinfect pools combines with swimmers' sweat, saliva or urine, irritating chlorine byproducts are formed, and over time these chemicals may damage the airways.

"This suggests that chlorinated pool attendance can increase the risk of asthma and respiratory allergies by making the airways more sensitive not only to allergens but also to infectious agents," senior researcher Dr. Alfred Bernard, of Catholic University Louvain in Brussels, told Reuters Health in an email.

What can I do?

Dr Bernard said that parents should be sure not to over chlorinate their home pools and to try to avoid public pools that are heavily chlorinated. Some clues to the latter include an overwhelming chlorine smell, and eye, skin and throat irritation in pool users.

Where possible, the researcher said, parents can also opt for public pools that use alternative disinfecting methods, like ozone treatment.

For their study, Bernard and his colleagues assessed 430 Belgian kindergarteners and surveyed parents on their children's health history, swimming habits and other factors.

They found that of children exposed to chlorinated indoor or outdoor pools before age 2, there were 36% of the children that had a history of bronchiolitis, compared with 24% of their peers.

Among infant swimmers who had contracted the infection, 15% later developed asthma. That compared with 4% of swimmers with no history of bronchiolitis. The figures were nearly the same when it came to hay fever.

Do you have a little swimmer in your family?
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24