Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
After a long meet this weekend, my daughter, for the second time, developed a nasty dry cough about 3/4 of the way through. She has asthma. After speaking with other parents, I was told that it happens all the time and isn’t necessarily connected to the asthma, although I’m sure it’s worse with it. They said it’s called Swimmer’s Cough. It seems concerning to me. Should I be concerned?
Any thoughts or advice you have is appreciated.
Concerned About Chlorine
Dear Concerned About Chlorine,
As the mother of a son with asthma, I’m all too familiar with the cough. Two times, I’ve seen swimmers taken by ambulance to the hospital—including Caeleb Dressel at Junior Nationals in 2013. At that meet, my daughter and her fellow swimmers from Southern California (who swim outside most of the time) stayed outside in the cold between swims.
We call it the “chlorine cough” and it usually happens in indoor pools with poor ventilation. I agree with you, it seems to be harder on swimmers who have asthma. I definitely suggest discussing the cough with your daughter’s asthma doctor. He or she may have strategies or offer medication to help. With our son, who was hospitalized as a toddler with asthma, the cough would turn into an upper respiratory infection and last for weeks. It made swimming a struggle for him to constantly be fighting illness. On the flip side, his asthma doctor felt that swimming was a benefit to his asthma and greatly increased his lung capacity.
While some indoor pools are able to air out the impurities with open doors, windows and fans, some pools spend tons of money to improve their ventilation systems, especially if they are hosting large meets. Another option is BioOx Air-Cleaning systems which is a more affordable way to clean the air with natural enzymes. As the parent of a swimmer who is suffering from poor air quality, perhaps you could bring up some of these solutions to your coach or person who runs the pool.
I hope your daughter has a healthy season and is cough free.
What advice do you have for Concerned About Chlorine and “swimmer’s cough?”
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.