Asthma is a medical disorder in which a patient’s airways inflamed, swell, narrow, and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing extremely difficult and can cause coughing. An asthma attack is accompanied by shortness of breath and a whistling sound as the person attempts to breathe out. For some individuals, asthma manifests only as a minor inconvenience, but for those who are severely asthmatic, it can lead to life-threatening situations. Asthma is an incurable disease. The only treatment available is to keep the symptoms under control. It is usually treated using oral and intravenous medications and inhalers.
Swimming has long been prescribed to asthmatics as the best form of exercise for them. In fact, there are many Olympic medal winners, like Amy Van Dyken, Grant Hackett, Jess Schipper, Dawn Fraser, and Rebecca Adlington, who are asthmatic.
Asthma and exercises
Being active is important if you want to keep lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol at bay. A good exercise regime will also help in managing asthma symptoms and maintaining general health. It will also, to a great extent, reduce the risk of asthma attacks. But many forms of exercise, like long-distance running, football, or cold-weather sports, could trigger asthma. As a result, it is critical to select an asthma-friendly exercise. Swimming is a good exercise for almost all people suffering from asthma. But before you decide on an exercise, make sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider.
How does swimming help asthmatics?
Exercise-induced asthmatic attacks are one of the main reasons asthma patients refrain from participating in active sports. Under normal circumstances, when we inhale air through our nose, it humidifies and the air is warmed up to reach our body temperature. So, when we do some rigorous exercises like running or cycling, our noses will not be able to keep up. This will result in the cells lining the airways sacrificing some moisture and heat. This can irritate the cells and cause them to secrete some chemicals, which can change the cells in the airway. The result is bronchospasm as well as heightened mucus secretion. This will trigger asthmatic symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
Swimming is a solution to this issue. There is always an abundance of humid, warm air around an indoor pool. This will help trigger a response in the airway that causes an increase in lung volume. It is also beneficial in developing a good breathing strategy. All this can help prevent or minimize asthmatic symptoms during swimming.
In many asthmatic people, contact with an allergen like mold spores or pollen can trigger a severe asthmatic reaction. Swimming in an indoor pool can reduce contact with such allergens while exercising.
Several studies have indicated that swimming can help minimize:
- asthma symptoms
- doctor or hospital visits
- quantity of medication
- falling severely sick
Chlorine pools and swimming
Many people are worried about how triggering chlorine in the pool water can be for asthmatics. Studies have shown that chlorine by itself is not a threat to asthmatic people. But when chlorine comes in contact with human sweat or urine, it can form a new chemical called chloramines. This chemical may cause irritation to the lungs and eyes. But still, doctors associate the risk of asthma triggers due to chlorine as very low. But then again, this is an aspect that depends on the physical condition of the individual. Experts recommend that each individual patient should be assessed separately to understand how they react to chlorine pools. Fortunately, Pool Builders Perth are expert in chlorine pools and can help set your pool water up, but before you decide to start your exercise regime, it is important to consult your healthcare provider.
There are several alternatives available for swimmers who fear that the pool conditions may trigger their asthma. A lot of swim schools and pool owners are now adding ozone, UV, magnesium, or copper-based filtration systems to their pools. This can be helpful for asthmatic swimmers. You can also try to find an outdoor pool or one that has sufficient ventilation. Asthma patients should, of course, always routinely monitor their asthma in collaboration with their physician.
How to swim safely with asthma
Any kind of exercise, including swimming, should be done carefully when you have asthma. By following some simple instructions, swimming for an asthma patient can be made a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Your ‘reliever’ inhaler should always be in an easily accessible place when you are swimming in the pool.
- Use the ‘reliever’ inhaler about ten minutes before you start your swimming regime.
- To minimise the chances of exercise-induced asthma, warm up properly and cool down slowly but effectively.
- Always take a shower before you start swimming to ensure that the pool water remains clean and healthy.
- Breathe through your nose as much as possible.
- You will be able to identify any chemical imbalances in the pool water based on the smell. If there is some strong chemical odour for about three minutes or longer, you should inform the pool staff. They will test for pool chemistry and pool water imbalances. It is also important not to stay in the pool water for long periods if there is a chemical imbalance issue.
- It is better to avoid swimming when your asthma is acting up or you have a cold.
- Make sure not to over-exert yourself when you are swimming. If you feel uncomfortable in any way while you are swimming, immediately stop and take a break. If your symptoms persist even after some time, consult your healthcare provider.
- Swimming in cold water can trigger asthma symptoms. So, always make sure that the pool water is not cold before you get in.
- Try not to go swimming soon after a meal.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for asthmatic people. It helps in improving the physical fitness of asthmatic people who may find it difficult to do other land-based exercises. Swimming also enhances lung function and provides a favourable breathing environment. With proper advice from the doctor and careful supervision, any individual suffering from asthma can practice swimming safely.