Children may end up developing chronic lung problems and asthma if they are taught to swim before the age of two, according to Alfred Bernard, the professor of toxicology at Belgium's Catholic University of Louvain. He also added that the levels of the irritant trichloramine were 50% higher in the air above indoor paddling pools than in adult pools, and that his recent study of 341 schoolchildren, 41 of whom had been given swimming lessons before they reached the age of two, had found that 23% of the children had developed asthma compared with 11% of the whole group.
The children who had the genetic predisposition for developing asthma ran a higher risk, according to him. He said that non-chlorinated pools were the most beneficial for asthmatic swimmers and recommended parents to send their children to such pools.
'If a pool is well managed, and you don't have that strong chlorine smell, I think that is fine. But if your child is at elevated risk for asthma, or has allergies, and there is that strong smell of chlorine, be careful. I am quite sure that if you send asthmatic swimmers to non-chlorinated pools, or a well managed chlorinated pool, it would be very beneficial. The best is in the open air,' the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
Prof Martyn Partridge, Asthma UK's chief medical adviser, said that though swimming was an excellent form of exercise for children suffering from asthma, chemicals present in heavily chlorinated pools could be responsible for making airways more irritable.
'Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for children with asthma. The warm humid air in the swimming pool is less likely to trigger symptoms of asthma. We do recognize however that the chemicals present in heavily chlorinated pools may be important in making the airways more irritable and further research is needed to understand this association,' Partridge said.
Prof Bernard recommended that swimming pools for extremely young children should be thoroughly ventilated to clear dangerous gases, and that other forms of disinfection, such as ozone treatment or copper-silver systems, should be used.