Asthma UK community forum

Quick Question - Swimming

I have just a quick question. I want to go swimming this weekend and I have just realised that I have not been since I developed asthma (2 years ago). My Uncle has told me that when he was young and people had asthma then they would be told to swim to build up their lungs, on the other hand I have heard that the chlorine is bad for asthma.

I am just wondering if anyone has any information or advice on this.

7 Replies

I personally find that chlorine doesn't affect me, and i can exercise better in warm, humid air much better than in cold dry air (like outside). That said, everyone is very different. As with all exercise when you have asthma, its usually advised that people take 2 puffs (if that's what you usually take) of salbutamol before exercising, and make sure to warm up and cool down properly. Exercise is great for asthma, but not everyone can manage to exercise without experiencing severe symptoms. If your asthma is not well controlled at the moment it might be worth talking to your GP/asthma nurse about what you should do to look after yourself when you go. Even if you are generally well controlled, take it easy at first, and it might be worht telling the lifeguard you have asthma (i know when i was a kid and went swimming my mum used to give the lifeguard my inhaler so that if i started struggling i wouldn't have to swim to the edge and climb out and walk to go get my inhaler - they could just bring it to me, and it also means that if you started to struggle then they'll already know whats going on and so everything would run a bit more smoothly! Fingers crossed it all goes well, but also dont forget that its not the end of the world if you have to leave, so dont stay if you do find the chlorine affects you :-) have fun!


I swim every morning before work and I think it's very good for me because I get a good cough to shift all the rubbish that's collected in my lungs overnight, get some exercise AND make my lungs work a bit harder.

Soph's advice is well worth following and the only thing I would add is to be a bit cautious because of the chemicals and not stay too long at first.

Have a great time.


Swimming is really good for lungs, however, my respiratory physician warned me that not breathing correctly when swimming (or indeed any exercise) could exacerbate asthma symptoms and cause some dysfunctional breathing technique. I was asked to stop swimming for a while, until my breathing technique had been corrected.


I also go swimming regularly and once i get in my rhythm i can go forever (did the swimathon 100 lengths last year and am also doing it this year at the end of April)

The advice you've been given already is great, ie warm up slowly & listen to your body,if you start to struggle do something about it - take your inhaler (which you will have kept on poolside), have a rest, do a different stroke or if needs be get out


I'd agree with everything above, though I hadn't realised swimming could be bad for breathing technique. (Makes sense though - I have the same breathing pattern issue on top of asthma and perhaps haven't always breathed properly when doing it as I'm focusing on other things; will ask physio about it.) When I was younger I was pretty rubbish at games (nothing to do with asthma) and in addition found it hard to do them outside in the cold because that set me off, even with the mild and uncomplicated asthma I had then. But swimming was always the sport I could actually do and didn't cause problems.

Now I do find it harder, maybe partly because of the breathing pattern issues. I think it's also because for some perverse reason, my breathing is worse in warm and steamy environments as well as cold dry ones (grrr) - so steam rooms, for instance, are a no-no. I also find the smell of the chlorine is slightly hard to deal with. So my gym's pool tends to be somewhere I avoid as just the smell of the chlorine and steam when you walk in the main entrance can make me cough, and the pool is very small and overheated. But in a big pool with a high roof which isn't too hot, it's much better.


I'm a GP/ former Immunologist who has had to give up swimming due to coughing after exposure to chlorinated swimming pools. There is no reason to think that chlorine is any less toxic to respiratory mucosa than to bacteria in our water. It seems logical that inhaled chlorine will impair healing of inflamed mucosa in asthma sufferers.

Please raise awareness of the potential impact of inhaled chlorine from showers/ swimming on the respiratory epithelium of asthma sufferers. 

Below are two relevant studies :

Please support the need for further research into this area by liking/ sharing the Question Chlorine Campaign

Stephen Katona


Chlorine is one of my biggest triggers, and my asthma nurse has actually asked me to stop swimming but since I work as a swimming teacher, and coach, that isn't really an option for me... Thankfully if I pre-medicate with Ventolin and take Ventolin regularly throughout the session, I tend to do okay.


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