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Indoor Pools Linked to Infant Asthma Risk

When you think of pool safety, you generally think of drowning. But there's another possible risk to babies who swim regularly in indoor pools: Asthma.

A Belgian study of almost 350 school-age children found that those who frequently swam in indoor pools as babies were 50 percent more likely to report wheezing, four times as likely to complain of chest tightness, and had more than twice the risk of developing shortness of breath as children who didn't swim indoors as infants. The researchers, who reported their study in the June issue of Pediatrics, believe this is because of exposure to pool chemicals like chlorine.

But it's too soon to recommend that parents keep babies out of the pool, says Jason Lee, M.D., an allergist with the American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology. "The study looks quite convincing, but it is a small study," says Lee, adding that swimming is a healthy activity for kids - even kids with asthma. The moist air around swimming pools, according to Lee, is less likely than dry air to cause asthma symptoms when kids get active.

Because chlorine is a known airway irritant, Lee suggests swimming only at indoor pools with proper chlorine levels and ventilation. You can tell by the smell: That strong chlorine odor that irritates your own throat will irritate your child's as well.

"Use common sense and try to avoid pools that have high chlorine levels," says Lee. "You want to go to a pool that is well maintained. You want to see people testing the water."

- Christina Elston

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