Ask Swim Mom: Is It Asthma Or Allergies?

by SwimSwam Contributors 3

August 22nd, 2020 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,

My daughter coughs non-stop every time she enters the swimming pool. It’s outdoor and chlorine treated. Any reason why this may be happening? Do you suspect an allergy to the chlorine or perhaps undiagnosed asthma? I’ve heard her cough at home on and off while playing in our game room too, but not sure if it’s connected.

Thanks for the help!

—Concerned About Chlorine


Dear Concerned About Chlorine,

Thank you for reaching out to me. I definitely think you should make an appointment for your daughter to see an allergy/asthma specialist. There are lots of studies that show chlorine is linked to asthma in swimmers. I’ve read that there can be a reaction to the chlorine that causes symptoms similar to exercise-induced asthma.

My son has asthma and always has a cough — even out of the pool. It reminds me of how you describe your daughter’s cough. It was always worse in the pool, especially when we went to meets at indoor pools. Our home pool is outdoors and the cough wasn’t as bad, but still present. My son’s allergy/asthma doctor said he shouldn’t be affected in an outdoor pool because the chlorine would dissipate — but he still was. At the time, the pool had way too much chlorine and swimmers on our team were losing arm hair and eyebrows!

On the bright side, my son’s doctor said the benefits of swimming outweighed any problems with chlorine or exercise-induced asthma. My son’s lung capacity significantly increased due to swimming according to his doctor.

I suggest making an appointment for your daughter with a doctor who specializes in asthma and allergies. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis, discuss strategies and prescribe medication to help.

I wrote about the “swimmers cough” in an earlier article where a parent was concerned with similar issues:

What advice do you have for Concerned about Chlorine?

If you have a question for Ask Swim Mom, please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected].

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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1 year ago

Do not forget…vocal cord dysfunction is often misdiagnosed as allergies. A good pulmonolgist should be able to identify the difference. This is an often overlooked condition that can be managed.

Reply to  malleesmom
1 year ago

I was going to say the exact same thing. Having VCD myself, and a daughter that was a swimmer that also has it, it is important to know the difference. It looks a lot like asthma. My daughter and I were both diagnosed by an ENT. Speech therapy significantly helped her breathing.

Working swim mom
Reply to  COSwimMom
1 year ago

Same – my youngest has asthma and VCD. A good ENT can scope and be able to tell. It’s kind of like spasms in the vocal cords that can close off the airway. We are lucky to live in a large city where there are a few ENTs who specialize in this area.