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Swimming in pools does not increase the risk of childhood asthma

Wednesday, November 3th, 2010

Children who swim have the same risk of developing asthma than children who do not perform this activity. Indeed, according to a study by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) of Barcelona and the University of Bristol (Great Britain), published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, swimming may even improve lung function and reduce the risk of asthma symptoms among children.

This research followed 5,738 British children from birth until 10 years, turning this project into the most important on the topic. The researchers found that 1 out of 5 children had ever suffered asthma at 7 years of age, and children who swam more frequently did not have higher risk of asthma at 7 or 10 years.Nor did they suffer more respiratory and allergic symptoms, such as wheezing, hay fever, or atopic eczema than those who swam less frequently or did not swim at all.

About half of the children swam in pools at least once a week when they were between 4 and 7 years, while 20% never or rarely did so.

CREAL researcher and one of the study's authors, Cristina Villanueva, believes that "the results can be considered good news" because asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood and swimming is one of the sports more practiced in Western countries, where physical inactivity and obesity are serious public health problems.

In recent years, some Belgian studies had suggested that swimming pool attendance during childhood could be a risk factor for developing asthma and other allergicdiseases due to exposure to irritants derived from chlorination of pool water. However, other studies in Germany, Italy and Catalonia did not find that swimming pool attendance increased asthma risk among children.

Researchers of the study believe that "the results should be confirmed with new studies in different populations." In addition, the authors believe that further research is needed to evaluate the risk of other, less frequent diseases, and the risk on people who spend many hours a day in the pool such as workers. Meanwhile, Dr. Villanueva recommends to "control and reduce the levels of disinfection by-product chemicals in pool water to keep them under safe limits and increase the benefits of swimming."

Reference: Font-Ribera L, Villanueva CM, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Zock JP, Kogevinas M, Henderson J. Swimming Pool Attendance, Asthma, Allergies and Lung Function in the ALSPAC Child Cohort. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Oct 1. [Epub ahead of print]


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