For people like me, who love to be in the water, getting into a pool with my newborn was a top priority. What parent isn’t excited about the idea of getting into a swimming pool and introducing her baby to it for the first time? But is it safe? Can chlorine harm a baby?
Unless a chlorine allergy exists, there is no reason why a newborn baby cannot go into a chlorinated swimming pool. However, following a few simple guidelines will help ease your newborn baby into this environment. Here are a few places you can go to read more about the effects of chlorine, saltwater-systems and keeping babies comfortable in the swimming pool.
Public Pools and Chlorine Sensitivities
Public pools, especially indoor ones, like those found in hotels or community centers and gyms, are often over-chlorinated. Ever notice how your eyes get a little big redder, or burn a little more if you open them underwater at an indoor pool? This is due to chlorine, which everyone, children or adults, may tolerate differently. With a newborn, there is really no way to know how sensitive he or she will be to chlorine, so keep the first few visits in a swimming pool short, in order to avoid unpleasant reactions. With each successive trip to the pool, stay in a little longer with your baby and watch for signs of intolerance. Common signs that your baby may not tolerate chlorine are skin redness/rashes, rubbing eyes or crying.
Risk of RSV
For some young children, including infants, there are studies that show a slightly higher risk of respiratory illnesses like bronchiolitis or pneumonia due to exposure to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which may be associated with swimming pools. Typically, RSV is a mild illness for both children and infants, but factors such as premature delivery and/or low birth weight, or prior chronic heart or lung disease, may increase severity.
It is highly disputed whether taking infants into swimming pools carries an inherent risk, mainly because it is difficult to determine the exact cause of respiratory infections in children; most babies commonly come into contact with other means of contracting respiratory infections, such as family members, daycare centers, other babies, etc. Because RSV is highly contagious and spread through airborne means such as sneezing, coughing, there is no way of knowing just how a baby contracts it.
There is a mistaken belief that saltwater system backyard pools do not contain chlorine. This is not true. While it is true that chlorine in its granular form is not added to salt water pools, chlorine is generated by way of a chlorine generator (salt cell). In other words, the salt cell, which is contained in the filtration equipment, changes salt to chlorine by a form of electrolysis. This naturally generated chlorine goes right to work in the filtering system, and is partially converted back to salt before it returns to the pool. The relatively low doses of chlorine that make it back to the pool then wait to come into contact with an organic material to oxidize, at which time it turns back into salt. Many people with chlorine sensitivities, even allergies, can tolerate the lower levels of chlorine found in saltwater system pools, which is one reason why they have grown in popularity in the last few decades.
Don’t forget: Due to an infant’s high surface area-to body weight ratio, water temp should be in the mid-eighties. Babies get both cold and over-heated more easily than bigger kids and adults, so never take babies into hot tubs or overly warm bathwater.