Published on Mar 09, 2011 with 2 comments
Every allergist has heard patients say that their allergies become worse at the swimming pool. We usually respond that one cannot be allergic to the environs of the swimming pool, but not so fast. Recent evidence has shown that chlorinated pool exposure interacts with one’s allergic predisposition to potentially increase the nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing of allergic rhinitis, and the coughing and wheezing of asthma.
Swimming pools are commonly disinfected through chlorination of the water. Chlorine, when added to the water, releases hypochlorous acid, the active ingredient which oxidizes and inactivates a wide variety of waterborne pathogens. While advantageous in eliminated bacteria in the water, this chemical, especially in high concentrations, can at the same time be an irritant to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
It has been observed that swimmers have a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms than other athletes. Researchers suggest that these respiratory issues may, in part, be the result of the repeated and frequent exposure to the chlorine used to disinfect the pool water. Recent studies have also documented a higher incidence of respiratory symptoms including allergic rhinitis and asthma in allergic children, suggesting an exacerbating or additive effect. So, the evidence is mounting that chlorine exposure in and around the pool can indeed make susceptible individuals more symptomatic.
Swimming is a wonderful activity, especially during these very hot summer days. TheOnlineAllergist recommends that those with allergies and asthma swim in outdoor pools and in pools where the chlorine levels are continuously monitored. Have fun, but be careful out there.