Swimming Offers 3 Key Benefits for Children with Asthma

in Asthma, Features, News
Swimming is a great way to help keep kids with asthma fit, and to improve symptom control.Photo: Getty

Parents of children often worry about how to keep them active and healthy. It can be a challenge because exercise, like swimming, can trigger asthma symptoms. The symptoms include coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath.

Yet, 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 how swimming can help kids with asthma keep fit and improve symptom control. First, the humid air of the pool environment keeps the airways open. Then swimming as an exercise form helps to regulate breathing, and it 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.

Swimming, Asthma and Chlorine

Does it make a difference whether or not you go to an indoor or outdoor pool? Olin says: “There’s probably a higher concentration of a variety of chemicals at the surface of the water in indoor pools. This is because presumably the ventilation is worse than an open air environment.”

But even if you don’t have an outdoor option, Olin says: “My message is that the benefits of swimming outweigh the risk of chlorine.”

Jennifer McCullough is the director of education at Morgridge Academy, a school for children diagnosed with a chronic illness, where swimming is part of the curriculum. At the institution, located near 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.

Swimming Less Aggravating

Olin says that swimmers who have asthma don’t experience a reaction as often 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, if you find you are limited, that’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.”

Related Reading:
Asthma and Swimming: How to Keep Chlorine in Check