When can my baby go swimming?


A lot of mommies that I know have wanted to take their kiddies swimming including me. I even went as far as buying the swimming nappies which are now too small for my little man’s butt.

Foam-born baby

Why did I decide to go against it? Well it is a really good thing to have medics in the family who open your eyes to the possibilities of risks out there. The one thing that I do not do is take things for granted and always do my research, so here is a piece of it so that you can decide whether you want to take your baby or when the right time for you is.

By the way many mommies have taken their babies and they have been fine in the long run however their full experiences with their children have not been recorded or observed. For example the rate of illness at home etc. and therefore we have to rely on scientific studies instead of word of mouth to show us what is truly happening.

Dr Howard Reinstein, a pediatrician in Encino, California and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you do not take your baby swimming until they are 6 to 12 months old as the babies cannot regulate their body temperature well. Also, he mentions that the bacteria present in the pool can cause diarrhoea and can be very harmful, as well as exposing your vulnerable baby to illnesses.

Otitis in the book of Medical Microbiology – Chapter 93 Infections of the Respiratory System

Infections of the ears are common events encountered in medical practice, particularly in young children. Otitis externa is an infection involving the external auditory canal while otitis media denotes inflammation of the middle ear

The reasons why they occur

The narrow and tortuous auditory canal is lined by a protective surface epithelium. Factors that may disrupt the natural protective mechanisms, such as high temperature and humidity, trauma, allergy, tissue maceration, removal of cerumen and an alkaline pH environment, favor the development of otitis externa. Prolonged immersion in a swimming pool coupled with frequent ear cleansing increases the risk of otitis externa.

Acute otitis media commonly follows an upper respiratory infection extending from the nasopharynx via the eustachian tube to the middle ear. Vigorous nose blowing during a common cold, sudden changes of air pressure, and perforation of the tympanic membrane also favor the development of otitis media. The presence of purulent exudate in the middle ear may lead to a spread of infection to the inner ear and mastoids or even meninges

So the medical books say that an alkaline pH environment does cause otitis, while this something that kids may get during their lifetime it is probably not the best when they are little.

So the result is that you risk your child having a perforated eardrum and potential degradation of their hearing. It is curable with antibiotics of course, which will disturb your babies tummy flora. Definitely not something I would want for a little baby.

Acute otitis media occurs most commonly in young children. The initial complaint usually is persistent severe earache (crying in the infant) accompanied by fever, and, and vomiting. Otologic examination reveals a bulging, erythematous tympanic membrane with loss of light reflex and landmarks. If perforation of the tympanic membrane occurs, serosanguinous or purulent discharge may be present. In the event of an obstruction of the eustachian tube, accumulation of a usually sterile effusion in the middle ear results in serous otitis media. Chronic otitis media frequently presents a permanent perforation of the tympanic membrane. A central perforation of the pars tensa is more benign. On the other hand, an attic perforation of the pars placcida and marginal perforation of the pars tensa are more dangerous and often associated with a cholesteatoma.

In the journal for

Con: Respiratory Risks Associated with Chlorinated Swimming Pools – A Complex Pattern of Exposure and Effects

 The authors studied a cohort of 5,738 children born in 1991–1992 (the ALSPAC cohort) who were followed up until the age of 10 years.

And yet, the idea that chlorination products (CPs) contaminating the air of swimming pools pose no risk to swimmers is increasingly challenged by reports of respiratory problems among swimming pool attendees. Studies conducted in France (2), in The Netherlands (3), and in Italy (4) clearly show that swimming pool workers, and in particular lifeguards and trainers, are at increased risk of developing irritation and asthma symptoms.

It has been known for more than two decades that elite swimmers present a higher prevalence of asthma, rhinitis, and respiratory allergies than do other athletes (68). This poorer respiratory health of swimmers is partly attributable to the selection bias due to the lower asthmagenicity of indoor swimming compared with other sports (8). However, researchers now increasingly acknowledge that these respiratory problems may be caused by chlorine used to disinfect pool water (910). Concern about the dangers of chlorinated pools was really aroused with the finding in a Belgian study that the attendance at indoor chlorinated pools correlated with lung epithelium hyperpermeability and asthma prevalence in schoolchildren.

Consistent with this chlorine hypothesis, an ecological study across Europe has brought to light strong associations between childhood asthma prevalence and the availability of indoor chlorinated swimming pools .

It increasingly appears that chlorinated pools might also promote the development of common upper airways allergic diseases such as hay fever and allergic rhinitis. In a retrospective analysis of a cohort of adults, Kohlhammer and colleagues (20) found that early school pool attendance was associated with an increased risk of hay fever. In our recent study among adolescents, we also found that the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed hay fever increased dose-dependently with the time spent in chlorinated pools. An increased risk of sensitization to aeroallergens, and especially to house dust mite, was observed in adolescents having regularly available outdoor chlorinated pools before the age of 7 years (14), and a similar finding was made in children having ever attended an outdoor pool before the age of 2 years (15). Further complicating the picture, studies in Norway (2122) and Belgium (2324) provide quite consistent data suggesting that attendance at chlorinated pools during infancy increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infection and especially of bronchiolitis. In a recent Belgian study (24), infant swimmers who had bronchiolitis had a much greater risk of developing asthma and respiratory allergies in subsequent years than infants who never swam during infancy.

Another study for the

It was also observed, that infants attending swimming pool during the first year of life have higher frequency of RRI and otitis media (Nystad et al., 2003). 

If you do decide to take your baby swimming follow Dr Sear’s advise:

    • If you want to get your baby used to the water then use the bath and help them do so, find a salt pool and try avoid heavily chlorinated pools. If it smells like chlorine when you walk in, it is way too strong for your baby
    • The pool should be slightly warmed. The tinier the baby, the warmer should be the water. Babies have a large surface area relative to their body weight, so it’s easy for them to get cold. If the temperature is comfortable for you from the moment you enter the water, it’s likely to be comfortable for baby. Limit the amount of time your baby spends in a cold pool – especially when you first start out. You might look into finding a heated pool or spa for baby’s first pool exposure.
    • Avoid pools loaded with chemicals. Pool chemicals are necessary to keep the bacteria count of the water down, but overexposure can be unhealthful to baby. Baby’s skin, eyes, and breathing passages are more sensitive to chlorine than are adults. If you walk into the poolroom and immediately smell chlorine, assume it’s too strong for baby. Try to avoid heavily chlorinated indoor pools. Seek out pools that use the newer ozone filters – these are becoming more common in spas and pools. Ozone-filtered water is clean and very baby-friendly.
    • You must take sensible precautions to protect the pool from babies doing what comes naturally – having a bowel movement in the pool. Use “swim diapers” specifically designed for going in water. Check and clean the diaper area before entering the pool. And it’s best not to take baby into a pool immediately after a feeding when a BM is most likely.
    • Discourage water swallowing, not only for safety’s sake, but in rare circumstances older babies can swallow too much water, which can be harmful to their body’s chemistry. Pool water is for swimming, not drinking.
    • The buoyancy of water brings out freedom of movement. Hold your baby securely underneath the arms and let him enjoy the sensation of movement in lessened gravity. Some tiny babies sense it’s fun to move in water. In our experience, the combination of water exercise and water relaxation often sets baby up to enjoy a nap after pool time.

I could probably bore you with more and more studies suggesting an increased rate of upper respiratory infection etc. but I won’t do that because I think I have armed you with enough knowledge to make your own decision about swimming when you child is still very vulnerable.

I would recommend you start at minimum when the child is 1 year of age and best when your child is over 2 years of age.

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5 thoughts on “When can my baby go swimming?

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