The pool is one of the most fun places to cool kids off on hot summer days. Many parents take proactive steps to make sure kids are safe in the water — like getting kids into swimming lessons or using coast-guard-approved flotation devices. But taking additional steps to protect your child against the effects of chlorine can reduce some of the uncomfortable side effects of too much time in the pool.
Chlorine — the most common chemical used to treat pools — can be helpful in preventing the spread of germs. But too much chlorine exposure can also be harmful to your child’s skin. Taking precautions to minimize chlorine’s impact can ease some of these symptoms.
Chlorine is a chemical that is often added to the water in pools, hot tubs/spas, water parks and water playgrounds to prevent the spread of germs among swimmers. When added to a pool, chlorine can kill bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and viruses — things that cause conditions like diarrhea and swimmer’s ear.
However, in addition to bacteria, chlorine can also combine with the body waste swimmers bring into pools — like sweat, urine, feces, dirt, skin cells and personal care products (like deodorant or makeup). When chlorine combines with these substances, it can form chemicals called chloramines, which can irritate skin, eyes and respiratory tract. And, as the number of chloramines increases, the amount of chlorine available to kill germs decreases, making swimmers more susceptible to the bacteria chlorine is intended to eliminate.
Healthy pools and pools that are well-maintained typically have lower levels of chloramines. If you’re swimming in a pool that has a strong “chlorine smell,” it’s likely the pool has high levels of chloramine. If your child is exposed to high levels of chloramine, you may notice:
Protecting your child against chlorine doesn’t necessarily mean keeping them out of the pool. Precautionary steps before, during and after swimming can reduce the impact of chlorine on your child’s body.
When possible, swim in a well-maintained outdoor facility. An outdoor pool allows chlorine the opportunity to ventilate and reduces chlorine’s impact on little swimmers. If you’re able to find a pool that uses salt water, UV or ionization, these options use fewer chemicals and could further limit symptoms.
If your child is swimming in a pool treated with chlorine, you can reduce the effects of chloramine exposure by:
If you’re concerned about a reaction your child is having to a pool chemical, please connect with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will be able to talk you through additional steps to take to prevent and treat reactions or see your child if needed.