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Study shows prevalence of asthma among Olympic swimmers

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Swimming is a great form of exercise, and its health benefits cannot be discredited. However, a new study has noted that a high number of swimmers suffer from asthma, compared to other sports practised at a similar level.

The researchers found that asthma and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) was most common in swimmers, compared to other aquatic sportspeople. Both aquatic and non-aquatic sports involving endurance had higher levels of asthma than those that did not involve endurance. They noted that swimming, open water swimming and synchronised swimming had some of the highest levels of asthma and AHR, being in the top 5 of all Olympic sports for these conditions.

Based on the findings, the scientists recommend more research into prevention and treatment of asthma and AHR in these aquatic sports.

A link between asthma and chlorine?

Dr. Don McKenzie told Reuters Health “It is exposure to the chlorine and chlorinated compounds that is responsible for the changes in airway hyperresponsiveness”.  As Olympic swimmers spend the most time exposed to these chemicals, Dr. McKenzie suggests that they are at an increased risk for asthma.

Certainly, some of our customers experience lung irritation as a result of chlorine in bathing water and have reported feeling more comfortable after installing a chlorine filter.

On the other hand, the health benefits of swimming are not to be sniffed at – it’s low-impact, mood-boosting and strengthens muscles and flexibility. It’s not yet clear whether the risk of asthma from chlorine exposure outweighs these great benefits.

Whether exposure to chlorine is a risk factor for developing asthma or not, it seems that more research is necessary on this subject.

Take a look at this fact sheet from Asthma Australia for more information about the relationship between swimming and asthma.


  • http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/02/us-health-asthma-swimmers-idUKKBN0MT2I620150402
  • Mountjoy, M., Fitch, K., ‘Prevalence and characteristics of asthma in the aquatic disciplines’, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, March 2015
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