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Thread: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

  1. #1
    Very Active Member bamueller's Avatar
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    Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Last Thursday at my local YMCA, I almost couldn't complete my workout because I could not control my coughing towards the end. I have been swimming at this Y without any issues for a year. Yesterday (Tuesday), I had the same thing happen. I swam outdoors on Sunday, and had no issues. I ran this morning outdoors and had no issues. This is twice now that this particular Y has caused me to stop swimming because of coughing in the past week. The lifeguards say the water levels are fine.

    I hear others complaining of high pH levels in this saline pools which produces higher chlorine levels. I am not a chemist, so I am only repeating what I have heard.

    Are there any respitory issues that I could be subjecting myself to by swimming this poorly ventilated pool?

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    Very Active Member elise526's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Many swimmers not born with asthma have developed it after years of swimming in poorly ventilated pools. I have several friends that were diagnosed in their thirties with asthma and all the doctors were of the opinion that swimming in a poorly ventilated pool was a big factor.

    Bring your problem to the attention of the Y director. Perhaps something is wrong with the ventilation system and/or chemical balance of the pool. By bringing it to his/her attention, perhaps the problem can be corrected. I have to bring it to the attention of my Y all the time and they usually try to do something about it.

    Check the water temp because high water temps always seem to aggravate the problem. If lap swimmers never say anything to the director, the folks that complain when the water is below 86 will always win out.

    When my Y has ventilation problems and it is not getting fixed quickly, I find another pool to swim in until the problem is corrected. I have asthma, so ventilation/chemical balance is something I have to consider when I swim. I have to drive a little bit further, but it is worth it. Better to do that then have to be put on a stiff dose of prednisone because of respiratory problems.

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    Very Active Member bamueller's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Thanks for your advice. I just emailed the YMCA branch manager. Hopefully others are experiencing similar symptoms as mine. In the meantime, I will have to drive futher to my other YMCA.

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    Very Active Member aquageek's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    I've had the same issue with low Ph, and it was terrible. I kind of doubt the ventilation issue, that seems to be a red herring. Ph issues can really be painful on the body.

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    Very Active Member swimcat's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    you are preaching to the choir. since i moved to indoor pools, i constantly cannot breath. i hack, i wheeze . btw, i am asthmatic. i do fine in the ocean, skiing etc. but something about indoor pools gets me. poor ventilation, mold you name it. Bromine sets off some people. as a matter of fact,today i had really bad breathing problems.

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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Interesting that you should post this today—the New York Times has a "Well" column that addresses exactly this issue. Here's the url:

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/0...your-lungs/?hp

    There's a lot of valuable information here, some of it speculative, and it's worth reading to the end. My own particular issue with pools is that I experience explosive sneezing fits after swimming, but only when I swim in certain pools. My current pool is several degrees cooler than average and not nearly as intensively chlorinated, and I experience no such symptoms now.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    You would think that pool people would stay on top of this kind of stuff ???

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    Very Active Member bamueller's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Quote Originally Posted by cheakamus View Post
    Interesting that you should post this today—the New York Times has a "Well" column that addresses exactly this issue. Here's the url:

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/0...your-lungs/?hp

    There's a lot of valuable information here, some of it speculative, and it's worth reading to the end. My own particular issue with pools is that I experience explosive sneezing fits after swimming, but only when I swim in certain pools. My current pool is several degrees cooler than average and not nearly as intensively chlorinated, and I experience no such symptoms now.
    Thanks for sharing that link. That is dead on. I will try a different YMCA before I go see my doctor.

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    Very Active Member joel schmaltz's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    You are not alone. The coughing spells happen to me occasionally at our pool. I was told that it had something to do with the chloramines being at the top of the water and being stirred up by all the swimmers. It feels like you are going to cough up both lungs and can't inhale at all. I thought warm water temps. in the pool was bad enough. No fun to swim through jello.

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    Very Active Member Midas's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    This used to happen to me when I was a kid and swam indoors. Every once and a while, the PH or ventilation or something would be off and I would develop some asthma-like symptoms. Usually the problem was gone by the next day. Hopefully that's your issue too.

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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    I constantly have a runny nose from swimming at my local Y. Some days are worse than others. I've never had this problem swimming in other pools. I think it's because my Y uses bromine instead of chlorine. I am going to try switching to most of my swimming at the IU outdoor pool for the rest of the summer and see if that makes a difference.

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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    To those who had coughing swimming in the pools: did it happen only when the pool is crowded and you were doing intensive workout?

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    Very Active Member bamueller's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Quote Originally Posted by nhc View Post
    To those who had coughing swimming in the pools: did it happen only when the pool is crowded and you were doing intensive workout?
    Yes. The past two times it has happened, it has been crowded (5 people per lane for all 6 lanes), and the workouts have been aerobic.

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    Very Active Member swimcat's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    great article. all i need to do is walk on deck and i tighten up. i was swimming with only one other yesterday and at probably 85% and i felt like my lungs were being ripped out. i have noticed, i can smell the pool when i enter the outside doors of the building.

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    Very Active Member elise526's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    Now that I read the above article about how the chloramines affect the kids, I'm really going to be a pain in the #%* until they fix the ventilation problem. None of the ceiling fans that suck the air out work right now and I have a kid that swims on the team.

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    Very Active Member bamueller's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    I swam at the other Y today, which is a much bigger Y. While I couldn't smell the pool from the indoor entrance, once I opened the door to walk out onto the pool deck it hit me. Warm and muggy chlorine.

    Are we really asking too much to have a well ventilated pool?

    Anyway, no coughing fit today, but I chose the wrong day for master's swimming. I was the only one in my lane today at this other Y. I don't like swimming alone. No motivation. I think I'd rather suck down chlorine gas and swim with friends then swim alone.

    Sigh.

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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    I guarantee its mold. I would try to avoid swimming in that indoor pool.

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    Active Member onefish's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    The dilemma for some pool operators is that pools are usually more comfortable as warm environments and the humidity is a natural factor if the building is sealed. Energy can be saved if less outside air is brought in, since the outside air in cooler months must be warmed-up via some [expensive] heat source. The building code requires a minimum amount of fresh air be introduced constantly based on the type of use in the facility. Heat resident in the warm, humid indoor air is sometimes captured through a dehumidifcation process and recycled back into the pool water, saving energy pretty effectively. Air circulation is usually not so hot in a pool since the grilles are best located away from wet areas, which allows the nasty gasses to settle down at the water level. If the air is forced from above with enough umph to get it to the water level, draftiness becomes a potential complaint. Condensation on virtually every surface might occur if there is not enough moisture control and not enough air circulation, so moldy issues are ripe even if all the surfaces are concrete/tile/metal/plaster. At the best competitive venues the designers have gone to great lengths to fit all of the puzzle pieces together. At the local lap or training pool it can be hit or miss. Operationally, management and recommissioning become key since the integrated systems will eventually go out-of-tune and can be [often?] mis-tuned by folks that might just not care as much as we do.

    blah, blah, blah - I, too, hate a mid-set coughing fit and wonder about long-term effects.

  19. #19
    USMS Membership Director Jayhawk's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    I resurrected this thread because of the following news story:

    Is swimming pool chlorine fueling the allergy epidemic?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090914/...rine_allergy_1

    By Megan Brooks – Mon Sep 14, 10:15 am ET

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Swimming in a chlorinated pool may boost the odds that a child susceptible to asthma and allergies will develop these problems, a study released today indicates.

    "These new data clearly show that by irritating the airways of swimmers chlorination products in water and air of swimming pools exert a strong additive effect on the development of asthma and respiratory allergies such as hay fever and allergic rhinitis," Dr. Alfred Bernard, a toxicologist at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, noted in an email to Reuters Health.

    "The impact of these chemicals on the respiratory health of children and adolescents appears to be much more important -- at least by a factor of five -- than that associated with secondhand smoke," Bernard noted.

    Taken together with his team's prior studies, he added, "There is little doubt that pool chlorine is an important factor implicated in the epidemic of allergic diseases affecting the westernized world."

    In the current study, Bernard and colleagues compared the health of 733 adolescents, 13 to 18 years old, who swam in chlorinated outdoor and indoor pools for various amounts of time with that of 114 "control" adolescents who swam mostly in pools sanitized with a concentration of copper and silver.

    In children with allergic sensitivities, swimming in chlorinated pools significantly increased the likelihood of asthma and respiratory allergies, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

    Among "sensitive" adolescents, the odds for hay fever were between 3.3- and 6.6-fold higher in those who swam in chlorinated pools for greater than 100 hours and the odds of allergic rhinitis were increased 2.2- to 3.5-fold among those who logged more than 1000 hours of chlorinated pool time.

    For example, among children and teens who swam in chlorinated pools for 100-500 lifetime hours, 22 children out of 369 (6.0%) had current asthma, compared with those who had spent less than 100 hours (2 of 144, 1.8%). The proportions with asthma rose with longer exposure, to 14 out of 221 (6.4%) who had been swimming for 500-1000 hours, and 17 out of 143 (11.9%) who swam for more than 1000 hours.

    The risk of asthma and allergy was not influenced by swimming in copper-silver sanitized pools and children without allergic tendencies were not at increased risk of developing allergies.

    "The only plausible explanation" for these observations, the researchers argue, is that the chlorine-based toxic chemicals in the water or hovering in the air at the pool surface cause changes in the airway and promote the development of allergic diseases.

    "It is probably not by chance," Bernard told Reuters Health, "that countries with the highest prevalence of asthma and respiratory allergies are also those where swimming pools are the most popular."

    The current findings, he and colleagues conclude, "reinforce" the need for further study on the issue and to enforce regulations concerning the levels of these chemicals in water and air of swimming pools.

    SOURCE: Pediatrics, October 2009.

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    Very Active Member letsrace's Avatar
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    Re: Poorly ventilated pool and coughing fits

    This whole topic makes me angry!

    I have had breathing problems in various pools my whole life. New pools, old pools. Cold pools, hot pools. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason, but in some pools, I will begin coughing in as little as 30 minutes.

    I researched this a few years ago and one of the culprits of the problem was ascribed to chloramines and the under chlorination at some pools. Reading up on that makes some sense, but it doesn't quite gibe with the experiences that I have had.

    The more likely culprit? Too much recirculation of the air. If a pool is designed to be energy efficient it will often recirculate the air many more times than other pools in an attempt to keep the heat in a building longer. The side effect, though, is to keep chloramines around the pool much longer without bringing in fresh air.

    I have two Y's near me. In the old one, I have never had breathing problems. In the new one (less than 5 years old), I have problems nearly every time that I swim there. I wrote letters, I spoke with the establishment, but nothing valuable was done.

    Like many have pointed out, pool temps, chlorine readings and PH values are often quoted, instead of getting to the real problem. What is the air quality like? I haven't heard of anyone who has measurements to describe that, unfortunately.

    Oh, and yes, I have had asthma since I was 12. Started swimming competitively at 7.

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