Is swimming a good activity for young Asthmatics?
It’s well documented that regular swimming activity can be great for those suffering with the medical condition known as Asthma.
“Asthma is a medical condition that affects the airways (the breathing tubes that carry air into our lungs). From time to time, people with asthma find it hard to breath in and out, because the airways to the lungs become narrower – like trying to breathe through a thin straw”.
This is a condition that I in fact suffered at a young age. I would randomly and uncontrollably cough and splutter, which left me gasping and struggling for air at times. This was especially so when my heart rate increased from participating in various types of exercise. And being an active kid who loved sports, this was an ongoing problem and a real handicap. I remember what an amazing feeling and relief it was to breath normally again, thanks to multiple puffs on my Ventolin inhaler.
Compared to other sports, swimming has been found to less likely trigger Asthma. The recumbent exercise of swimming can also produce a greater central blood flow than upright forms of exercise.
Some studies have shown that young asthmatics participating in regular swimming activities resulted in a decrease in the frequency of wheezing days, a decrease in the days needing medication, a decrease in emergency room visits, and an increase in school attendance.
Interestingly, in each of the Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972 there were gold medalists who had Asthma, which just shows not only can you enjoy the benefits of swimming with Asthma, but you can even excel in the sport.
But what if the water quality is poor?
Whether you suffer from Asthma or not, poor water quality can significantly affect your health but especially so for Asthmatics. Some studies suggest that healthy children can have their lung epithelium damaged and promote the development of Asthma as a result of swimming in poor water quality of both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
What issues with poor water quality should you be concerned about?
Nitrogen trichloride (Trichloramine) is a disinfection byproduct (DBP) produced when chlorine, commonly used as a sanitiser in pools, reacts with urea (ammonia product), which comes from sweat and urine constantly released by swimmers. This chlorine byproduct can cause irritation of a swimmer’s airway, especially if already suffering with Asthma, as well as irritate the eyes.
Haloacetic acids (HAA’s), another DBP formed when chlorine reacts with organic products released by swimmers. Some HAA’s are considered ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Are the benefits of the swimming activity outweighed by other risks to one’s health?
It’s no doubt that swimming is a good physical activity for Asthmatics, but only if the water quality is healthy via the correct methods of water treatment that remove not only dissolved chlorine disinfectant byproducts (DBP) but also the gasses too. Such treatment methods include Ozone and Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP).
Written by: John Morrison BSc
- Swimming and asthma. Benefits and deleterious effects. Sports Medicine. P397-405, January 1993.
- The effects of swimming intervention for children with asthma. Jeng-Shing WANG, Wen-Ping HUNG. August 2009.
- Early life swimming pool exposure and asthma onset in children-a case-control study. Martin Andersson et al. Environmental Health. Article 34. 2018.
- Monochloroacetic Acid in Drinking-water. World Health Organisation. 2004.
- Outdoor swimming pools and the risks of asthma and allergies during adolescence. A. Bernard et al. European Respiratory Journal, Article32, p979-988. 2008.
- What is Asthma. National Asthma Council of Australia. 2019.