Possible effects of chlorine in swimming pools on children’s health

There are several effects of chlorine in swimming pools on the health of children. However, the most harmful thing is not the chlorine itself, but the improper use.

Last update: October 21, 2021

It is very healthy for children to swim and have fun in the water. However, it is also important to take some precautions, since the effects of chlorine in swimming pools can be very negative if they are not prevented in time.

Chlorine is a substance that is used in swimming pools to eliminate bacteria and fungi or prevent its appearance. The problem is that it not only affects these microorganisms, but also humans. This occurs when the exposure is very long or the amounts of the substance in the water are very high.

The effects of chlorine in swimming pools on children’s health range from minor annoyances to serious problems. The best alternative is to prevent this from happening.

Chlorine and its risks

Chlorine is a chemical element found in nature and is one of the basic components of matter. Artificially, it is manufactured from common salt, through a process called electrolysis.

This substance is added to swimming pool water to kill germs in it. When chlorinated components come into contact with water, they release hypochlorous acid, which is an active disinfectant.

Despite its great benefits, prolonged and frequent exposure to chlorine can lead to health problems. This applies in particular to babies and children up to the age of 3. At that young age, respiratory function is developing and tends to react abnormally to irritants.

Health problems due to the effects of chlorine in swimming pools

The effects of chlorine in swimming pools on children’s health can be many. The most serious, but not the only ones, are those that affect the respiratory system. Usually, these are irritations of various kinds.

Eye irritation or conjunctivitis

Many times, children come out with red eyes from the pool and this is believed to be one of the effects of chlorine in swimming pools. The truth is that it is a consequence of the lack of this element. A pool that irritates the eyes is a poorly disinfected space.

In general, eye irritations and conjunctivitis are caused by the presence of sweat, saliva, urine, feces and remains of cosmetic products. All of these elements can be present in the water, even though it looks clean.

When conjunctivitis appears in a child who has been in a swimming pool, one must suspect a poor disinfection of the same.

Skin problems

Another possible effect of chlorine in swimming pools is dry skin or irritant dermatitis. This is because the pH of this substance is higher than that of the skin. As a consequence, irritation occurs. This causes itching and flaking.

Respiratory problems

Another possible effect of chlorine in swimming pools is the generation of respiratory problems. Chlorine has a concentrated substance called trichloramine.

This substance is toxic and is easily inhaled. Not only does it reach the upper airways, it reaches deep into the lungs. The consequence is that it can irritate and make children more prone to other respiratory problems.

Chlorine poisoning

A healthy pool should not have any odor. If there is a very strong smell of chlorine, it means that the water is full of impurities. This intense aroma is produced when chlorine reacts, when it comes into contact with sweat or feces.

If a child swallows a lot of chlorinated water, there is a risk of poisoning. Symptoms are coughing, vomiting, upset stomach, fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling of the eyes, throat, ears, and nose.

Allergic sensitization

A study carried out by Dr. Alfred Bernard, from the Catholic University of Leuven, found that there is a relationship between chlorine in swimming pools and the appearance of allergic diseases. Especially asthma.

This is evident in babies who frequently use the pool before the age of 2. and in children with a propensity to suffer from allergies. Research indicates that for every 100 hours of exposure to a chlorinated pool, the risk of asthma increases by up to 60%.

It has also been established that people who swam in pools before the age of 2 are more susceptible to developing allergies, even in their adult life.

Interactions with other substances

One of the aspects that must be taken into account is what is known as activated chlorine. This generic name is given to by-products that arise as a reaction from the combination of chlorine with other substances. This happens frequently in swimming pools.

For example, when chlorine is combined with sunscreen creams, lotions or perfumes, it undergoes modifications that can damage the skin’s protective oily layer. The effect is more dryness.

Likewise, and as we have already mentioned, when chlorine comes into contact with organic substances (sweat, urine) it generates chloramines. These make the smell of chlorine more intense, but they also affect the appearance of allergic health problems.

On the other hand, when salivary proteins come into contact with water in which there are chloramines, they decompose in an accelerated way. The consequence of this is the formation of a brownish tartar on the teeth.

It is important that children wear certain eye protection when using public pools.

Tips to minimize the effects of chlorine

The following are some tips that can limit the effects of chlorine in swimming pools on the health of children:

  • Avoid pools that have a strong chlorine smell.
  • Do not enter pools that do not require a shower before and after use.
  • After showering, when leaving the pool, it is advisable to apply moisturizing cream to the child.
  • It is very important to teach the child to do not spit or pee in the pool.
  • It is advisable for the child to go to the bathroom before entering the pool.
  • The use of special diapers that absorb urine into the water should be used and required in the case of babies.
  • It is best to use glasses and earplugs when using the pool.
  • The child must learn not to put pool water in his mouth, much less to swallow it.
  • If the child comes out with red eyes, the best thing to do is to rinse them with saline solution and put cold compresses on them for a couple of minutes.
  • Outdoor pools are more recommended than covers.

There are alternatives to chlorine

Today, there are pools that are not disinfected with chlorine. Some use water ionizers, in which electrolysis is used. In this case, the electricity kills the germs.

There are also pools that use a bromine or ultraviolet disinfection system. This sterilization system is very powerful and reliable. Both these and the previous ones are good alternatives to avoid the effects of chlorine in swimming pools on the health of children.

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