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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Swimming - it's a wheeze?

18th July 2006

A study of more than 190,000 children across Europe, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggests that children become more asthmatic and wheezy if they use indoor swimming pools; the research showed that children from areas with a high density of indoor pools were more likely to suffer breathing problems.
Professor Bernard, Professor of Public Health at the Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, who led the study, believes that the breathing problems are caused by nitrogen trichloride, an irritant that is released when chlorinated water comes into contact with urine or sweat. He suggests that the problem is exacerbated by poor ventilation combined with children spending longer in the water because of popular features such as slides.

Professor Bernard said that the increasing attendance of swimming pools by children has in turn led to substantial changes in the swimming pool environment, for example higher water temperatures and increased bathing loads.  The changes have contributed to raising the levels of chlorination by-products in pool air.

Thirteen and 14-year-olds from 21 countries were asked to give details of breathing problems, eczema and hay fever; this information was set against the ratio of public swimming pools to population. In Eastern Europe there was on average one pool per 300,000 people, and in Western Europe one pool per 50,000 people. The asthma rate rose 2.7 per cent and the wheezing rate 3.4 per cent for every additional indoor pool. The asthma and wheezing rate was less than 5 per cent in Eastern European countries and between 10 per cent and 30 per cent in Western ones; Britain had one of the highest rates which may be because it has more pools in schools.

Professor Bernard said that if there was a history of asthma in the family taking babies to swimming classes before the age of 2 years could be harmful.

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