Is Swimming Good for Asthma? Weighing the Risks Versus Benefits

Swimming is an excellent physical activity to promote fitness and improve cardiovascular function, but is swimming good for asthma?

Swimming delivers many health benefits for children, but parents with asthmatic children may have concerns when booking their child into a swim school near them. Keep reading to learn more about how swimming can be beneficial for people with asthma and how to manage the risks.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition affecting the airways that cause episodes of breathing difficulties such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest tightness due to narrowing airways. Asthma symptoms are reversible, but sometimes require medical intervention via inhalers or ventilators.

Asthma is not uncommon in Australia, as a report released in 2018 revealed that around 11%, or about 2.7 million people self-reported having the disease. [source]

Swimming is Safe for Asthmatics

Not all exercise is good for asthmatics, especially on cold days when breathing in a lungful of cold air or jumping into cold water may shock the body into an attack.

Researchers are continually discovering more about the relationship between asthma and exercise. During regular activity levels, your nose warms and dehumidifies the air before it enters the airways. It can’t keep up during vigorous exercise, and the cells lining your airways begin to release some of their heat and moisture, irritating them in the process.

Asthma symptoms are triggered by chemicals released by the cells that trigger bronchospasm and increase mucus production. Exercising can also trigger asthma symptoms because most people breathe heavily through their mouths.

The warm, humid environment of a heated swimming pool is less likely to trigger an attack, which is why swimming is often recommended as a preferred exercise for asthmatics. Some studies have suggested a possible link between chlorine and its by-products as a potential airway irritant. However, ongoing research has not been able to locate a definitive link between asthma and swimming in a pool making asthma worse.

Swimming as an exercise delivers physical benefits, including increased lung capacity, and maintaining physical fitness is always better for asthma than being unfit. The rhythmic breathing and holding of breath children learn during swim lessons train greater breath control, which can help them manage asthma symptoms.

Cold-water shock is also not a concern for kids who learn to swim in our pools, as we maintain a temperature of around 32 – 34 degrees Celsius all year round.

Swimming lessons are safe for children with asthma but minimising the risks with preventative measures can also be helpful.

Managing Asthma and Swimming

What can parents do to help their children with asthma? Ensuring your children are physically active and healthy can significantly reduce the symptoms and frequency of attacks.

Swimming lessons indoors in a heated pool is an excellent option for keeping asthmatic children away from the cold outside temperatures.

Tonya Winders, the President and Chief Executive of the Allergy & Asthma Network, recommends via Healthline, that children pre-treat by puffing on their asthma medication inhalers about 10 minutes before starting vigorous exercise.

Swimming in heavily chlorinated pools could exacerbate asthma symptoms in some children. If you notice a strong chemical odour, it could indicate a strong imbalance in the pool chemicals or an issue with ventilation. Fortunately, our rigorous testing and treatment levels ensure your children are always safe.

Asthmatic children should always keep their inhalers close by in case of symptoms. A proper warm-up and cool-down routine can reduce the risk of asthma symptoms during and after any type of exercise. Avoid swimming lessons on days when your child is experiencing troubling asthma symptoms or when they have a cold or other respiratory illness.

Talk to your doctor about swimming with asthma, as they may have advice that is relevant to your child’s medical history.

Why Our Learn Swimming School is a Good Choice for Asthmatics

There is no reason to let asthma keep children from doing the activities and sports they love. More than 25% of Olympic swimmers and 22% of synchronised swimmers have asthma. Australian greats like Grant Hackett, Dawn Fraser, and World Champion Jessicah Schipper are all asthmatic. Call today to discover more about how our indoor heated swimming pools are excellent resources parents of asthmatic children can use to keep their kids physically active in a safe environment.