The ASA Learn to Swim Companion

For parents, carers, and anyone considering taking the plunge

Swimming and asthma, the facts


Swimming and asthma can worry parents. Some feel their children’s asthma may get in the way of learning to swim, or that the pool environment may make their asthma worse.

Not so. In fact, swimming can make breathing a little more comfortable for children. Did you know former Olympians Rebecca Adlington and Adrian Moorhouse have asthma? Well, they do!

There’s no reason why almost all people with asthma shouldn’t learn to swim. There is no evidence that recreational swimming can make your child’s asthma worse.

In fact, the warm, humid atmosphere in swimming pools makes some asthmatics’ breathing more comfortable. Just remember to always take an inhaler such as salbutamol (Ventolin) with you.

Swimming and asthma guidance

  1. If the condition of the water in your local pool is bad, it may irritate your child’s lungs. A poor pH balance or the use of too much disinfectant may bring on symptoms. The hygiene habits of other bathers and the standard of the water treatment plant, operation and maintenance may also be factors.
  2. If there are strong and unpleasant smells that persist for about three minutes of being in the pool area, tell management and get out. Do not take babies or young children into the pool, as their lungs are delicate.
  3. Bather hygiene also plays a part so ensure your children’s bodies are clean before going into the water. Also, remind them that it is a swimming pool and not a toilet, so if nature calls ensure they know what to do.
  4. If your child has an asthma attack in the pool, get them out and give them their reliever inhaler immediately. If the situation fails to improve quickly make the lifeguard or nearest member of staff aware and ask them to help.