Parents of children often worry about how to keep them active and healthy. It can be a challenge given that exercise can trigger asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath.
Swimming is one activity that experts increasingly are recommending as a way to keep your child healthy.
Dr. Tod Olin, a pediatric pulmonologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, outlines three ways the sport can help kids with asthma keep fit and improve symptom control: humid air keeps the airways open, helps to regulate breathing, and strengthens lung function.
“The benefits of swimming are that you are exercising and it’s humid in an indoor pool. The drawbacks would be anything related to the chemicals in the pool,” Olin told Allergic Living.
Does it make a difference whether or not you go to an indoor or outdoor pool? While not everyone will have more than one option, Olin had this to say: “There’s probably a higher concentration of a variety of chemicals at the surface of the water in indoor pools because presumably the ventilation is worse than an open air environment.”
“My message is that the benefits of swimming outweigh the risk of chlorine,” he said.
Jennifer McCullough, who is the director of education at Morgridge Academy, a school for children diagnosed with a chronic illness, says swimming is part of the curriculum. At the institution, located not far from National Jewish Health, the staff have found there are many benefits for students who swim.
“We track the progress of each student, and we’ve found that swimming in the pool helps reduce their symptoms. Swimming is a large part of our fitness program that has been key in scaling back emergency room visits and hospital stays,” McCullough says.
Olin says that swimmers who have asthma don’t experience a reaction as much as athletes who do track and field or cross-country skiing. Those sports are more likely to trigger an asthma attack because they are more likely to be done in a dry or cold environment.
“Asthma should never limit you. There’s always going to be extreme cases, but generally speaking if you find you are limited it’s a sign that the doctor isn’t controlling the asthma well enough,” he said.
“If asthmatic kids struggle to exercise, that’s a message to doctors that they need to do more.”