Last September, I decided to learn how to swim, properly. Like a lot of people, I could swim ‘a little’ but only if my feet could touch the bottom of the pool. After many lessons I finally managed to get over my big fear of putting my face in the water (of course with goggles on), and the correct way to kick my legs, how to use my arms and turn my head to take in water …. I mean air.

The breathing was a huge problem for me though.  I was blowing the bubbles and turning my head and most of the time inhaling a big breath of air, but could only manage to swim half the length of the pool (10 meters) and then I had to stop. The minute my head went in the water I felt like I was suffocating. I tried a nose clip, thinking the water going up my nostrils was the problem, but that just made it worse.

After the pool last week, I had huge difficulties with my breathing later that night and it finally hit me, maybe I had an allergy to the chlorine or some other chemicals in the pool! When I think back, there was a lot of night’s after swimming, that I would wake up with a fit of sneezing or feeling like I was getting a head cold.

This week, with some advise from a local pharmacist, I took an antihistamine an hour beforehand and guess what, I finally managed to swim a full length!!!!! I was beginning to think I would never master it and was compelled to only swim on my back. (Love swimming my back, no problem breathing.) It took me a long time to figure out my problem and I am delighted that I can now improve my swimming, but it got me thinking more about chlorine and the dangers of it.

While researching my symptoms I came across some very interesting and scarey articles. One blog from Sebastien Locteau who suffered from Chlorine Poisoning after swimming in a pool in Waterford. He was training to swim the channel and did a 24 hour swim but ended up in A&E with collapsed lungs and bleeding from his eyes, ears and nose.

There are many articles like this one on the Irish Health website, that claim there are links with chlorine in swimming pools and the increase in asthma in children and adults!!! Along with breathing problems, chlorine in pools can also cause skin sensitivities and allergies.

The problem isn’t the chlorine, but what chlorine turns into when combined with sweat, hair, body creams, urine etc. Every time a swimmer enters a pool they add contaminants and combined with the chlorine this forms chloramines. Chloramines are what we all smell when we enter a pool area ….. not sure I wanted to know that.

So, is taking antihistamines and swimming in a chlorinated pool twice a week really good for my health??