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“We would advise parents of children with asthma not to worry about letting their child go swimming, unless they develop asthma symptoms in the pool environment”

Asthma has hit the headlines again over the last couple of months with at least three new studies being released on potential triggers and risk factors associated with the condition.

“Children who regularly use indoor swimming pools are more likely to develop asthma,” reported The Daily Mail. This comes from Belgian research that claims that the chlorine used in pools can increase children’s risk of asthma up to six-fold. Rates of hayfever and other allergies were also believed to increase. The increase in the risk was linked to the longer number of hours spent in pools. Toxicology Professor, Alfred Berhard who led the research, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, said: “There is little doubt that pool chlorine is an important factor.”

“One in 11 children in the UK has asthma so studies like this are vital”

The NHS saw this report as reasonable evidence that pool chlorine could be a factor associated with various allergies. However, it is not yet clear how important a factor it is.

Responding to the new research, other experts point out that asthma is triggered as a result of numerous genetic and environmental factors so more research is needed before we conclude that there is a definite link between asthma and swimming pool chemicals.

Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK, said: “There are a few studies which suggest that the chemicals present in indoor swimming pools, like chlorine, may be involved in the development or worsening of asthma and other allergic conditions. This is due to the fact that the chemicals in the water may compromise protective cell barriers within the lungs, meaning people with allergic asthma are more vulnerable to allergens.”

The team followed 2,497 five to nine year-old healthy children and recorded how they may have developed asthma over a three year period. 130 children did develop asthma over the time. Professor Rob McConnell, leader of the US study, (published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), concluded that children from stressful households are: “more susceptible to the effects of traffic-related pollution and cigarettes.”

Asthma UK said: “This study adds to existing evidence suggesting that a child's environment can impact on their risk of developing asthma. One in 11 children in the UK has asthma so studies like this are vital, as they provide an insight into the factors influencing asthma development and therefore how it might be prevented.”

Yet another study published in September looked into the effect of attendance at daycare on the prevention of asthma and allergies. Whilst previous studies have suggested that nurseries help children build up a resistance to asthma, this recent study that followed 4,000 children from before birth to eight years in the Netherlands concluded that they: “found no evidence for a protective or harmful effect of daycare on the development of asthma symptoms” at eight years old.

Says the NHS: “Asthma has a number of different causes, including hereditary factors, exposure to allergens such as pets and dust mites, infections and environmental factors including household smoke and other irritants. Whether or not a child is sent to daycare is likely to, at most, have only a limited effect on whether the child goes on to develop asthma.”

Useful links: Asthma UK charity
Academy of Sciences
Early Day Care article, The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: