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Dr. Clifford Bassett

Asthma and Swimming: How to Keep Chlorine in Check

Q: We’re amazed that our young daughter with asthma loves swimming (indoors as well as out). We thought the water and chlorine would bother her lungs, but they don’t. Is swimming OK for, or even good for, asthma?

Dr. Bassett:  Generally speaking, swimming is among the best exercise choices for a child, adolescent or young adult with asthma.

The increased humidity of the air in the immediate environment of a pool or body of water offers a “breathable” space that is well tolerated by most.

However, a series of Belgian studies has shown evidence that regular attendance at indoor and outdoor chlorinated pools is associated with a higher probability of airways or lung inflammation. To mitigate the risks, avoid pools that are poorly managed and have a strong chlorine smell. Such heavily chlorinated water can also irritate some people’s eyes or skin.

Barring an excessive level of chlorination, well-ventilated indoor pools, outdoor pools and fresh water can be good options for children with asthma who swim on regular basis.

Related: Do you get asthma when you exercise?

Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is also on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Send your question to Dr. Clifford Bassett by email.
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