"If levels are too low, infectious risks can increase, and if levels are too high, it is the toxic risks that can increase. Hence, the importance of hygiene and of carefully controlling the pH of the water to minimize the amount of chlorine needed for disinfection. Chlorine should not replace water filtration and hygiene to achieve a clear and blue water. Chlorine should only be used as a disinfectant and not a cleaning agent," advised Bernard.
"If [swimming] is a regular activity, I can only recommend parents don't take their baby in poorly managed pools where water and air contain excessive levels of chlorine. Such pools can be identified by the very strong chlorine smell in the air or at their surface as well as by the irritating effects on the eyes or upper respiratory tract that one may feel after swimming. If it is [your] own pool, parents should avoid over-chlorinating the water," he added.
"It is important to realize that studies on the safety of these chemicals for young children have started only recently. Thus, another cautious attitude for babies is not to leave them too much time in the water," Bernard said.
He also recommended that kids should swim no more than 20 minutes and that parents should discourage infants and young children from drinking pool water.
For other advice on preventing asthma in children, visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
SOURCES: Alfred Bernard, Ph.D., professor, Catholic University Louvain, and research director, National Fund for Scientific Research, Brussels, Belgium; Alan Khadavi, M.D., pediatric asthma specialist, New York University Medical Center, New York City; June 2007 Pediatrics