Tips for swimmers: Hi all, Are you a... - Asthma UK communi...

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Tips for swimmers


Hi all,

Are you a swimmer?

Do you have tips for other people who want to swim with asthma?

Laura from Swimming TImes has been in touch and is writing an article about any guiidnace and tips you have. Please comment if you are happy to be contacted and share your tips below.



13 Replies

Im very interested. Since being diagnosed with asthma I've been too scared to go swimming due to how I would react to the chlorine in the water.

Hi mas7656 it's not clear from your post that you would react to the chlorine in the water. I swim and do two aqua fit/circuit classes a week. I always take my inhaler in my swimming bag to the side of the pool. This gives me confidence that it's there if I need it. So that's one tip.

I only used my ventolin on the rare occasion before swimming if recovering from an asthma attack . Then I use my own judgement.

A very positive thing about swimming is that it has increased my peak flow best ever measure. Should be 418 but is 500.I learnt of the benefit from an asthma nurse who couldn't understand why my peak flow was better than hers. I was older than her . She asked me if I do running. I said I swam. She said that explained it.

For me breaststroke is a great work out for my breathing. Breathing in through the nose when out of the water and forceally blowing out under water on the stroke I sure works my lungs. So I recommend swimming as a brilliant workout for the body (being fit) helps a lot with asthma.

mas7656 in reply to elanaoali

I desperately need to lise weight and I love swimming but haven't been for some time now. I will give it a go and see how I get on. Thanks for replying

elanaoali in reply to mas7656

I really need to lose weight too due to steriods and stress. So I gone back to the regime above and using a 'diet plate' to control my portions. My weight is slowly going down so take heart you can lose weight too.

mas7656 in reply to elanaoali

Ive also returned to slimming world to try lose the 1 stone I put on whilst being ill in the winter months.

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador

I'd like to get around to going swimming again. The main issue for me, which is not necessarily a problem for everyone, is that if the pool is inside and very heated, the warm humid air is not friendly to my lungs. Some people may find that helps them!

Because my lungs are picky little so and sos, they also don't like the water to be too cold, which is an issue if I want to swim in the sea (my favourite but tricky atm).

I'm basically Goldilocks I think. I used to be fine with swimming as a child with mild asthma, and did a lot of it when outdoor sports in the cold could trigger me. Could also happily swim in cold seas then.

EmmaF91Community Ambassador


I don’t swim that regularly atm but have done in the past and do go irregularly now. Like elanaoali when I swim I put my pump at the side of the pool in a clear waterproof bag. Depending on how my lungs are (still trying to gain full control of severe asthma) I’ll take 2 puffs 30 mins before I go to the pool then walking in I may take another 2 if it’s particularly chlorine-y or humid. If this is the case I take about 5-10 mins in the jacuzzi or shallow end to acclimatise (to the hot air but cold water) before I actually swim.

Then I play it by ear. I struggle to slow down when swimming and can’t breast stroke full stop so I make sure I break ever 10 laps (if my lungs haven’t rebelled already forcing a break) and take the time to recover my breath and ensure that I don’t need my inhaler. I count my strokes for a breathing routine, if I struggle to hit 4 per breathe (front crawl) I know I need to break and think about having taking good old blue if it doesn’t self-resolve.

If I take 2 puffs I know I need to stop so sit back in jacuzzi 10 mins then reassess and either go home or return to swimming (maximum of 2 returns but usually only do 1 unless I feel especially good or I’m close to my goal -ie 38/40 lengths 😅).

I also alternate stroke each length on bad days esp towards the end - front crawl up, back stroke back, to have more ‘recovery’ time or after a sprint length etc.

My pool sends out emails when the pool has just been cleaned or are having chlorine issues (ie heavier chlorine smell) or if there’s a heating problem and I avoid those days. I also avoid on ‘twitchy’ lung days when I know there’s little point (ie the walk there will cause issues). When I’m there I adjust my goal depending on how I’m feeling generally and accept that some days I’ll get 80 lengths and others just 20 - if I’ve needed a puff walking in I know I need a lower aim 😅

I haven’t had any major issues on this approach as it forces me to check in and not ignore symptoms/put it down to exertional SoB (my brain doesn’t recognise symptoms until I’m below 60% PF level so I have to ‘focus’ on my breathing more than I’d like).

When I first started back swimming I went with friends as a social activity and for the support as they knew what to do if something did go wrong (I was a lot less controlled back then!), now I go by myself as I’m more confident in the situation, and I've chatted to a few of the regulars who are supportive and check I’m ok on breaks/needing my pump (at 26 it’s always slightly amusing/embarrassing when the 70yo is offering help but I know it comes from a good place and over time we now joke about it).

Luckily I now have more good days than bad and when I do swim I rarely need more than the ‘entrance’ puffs for the chlorine if at all, so I think if I do start back regularly I’ll increase breaks from 10 lengths to every 15/20.

Hope that helps for some ideas

Robin77 in reply to EmmaF91

Great that your pool sends out notifications!

Reacting to the chlorine was my issue so I discussed with manager of pool who couldn’t have been more informative. Choose a pool with a really high ceiling as chlorine rises and go as early as possible and not when full of children as they splash and release more chlorine! I had been going to nearest pool which was really small and had a low ceiling, with my kids and all their pals and had changing rooms at poolside. Now I go to a different pool, without them, first thing and change rooms are separate, am up to a slow 60 lengths where before I was wheezing as I was changing into my swimsuit!

strongmouse in reply to eachy

Yes I found that going to the pool after lots of children had been swimming made the air worse (apparently partly to do with increase in the amount of chlorine used and other chemicals to keep the water safe).

Outdoor lidos are wonderful! I swam a lot in Germany were they are open from May to September. It definitely built up my overall stamina.

Some other problems I've encountered are mould in changing rooms, dust in poorly kept veniliation systems and perfumes in the changing rooms, especially the ones which pump out "air freshner" on a regular basis. When I was able to go I used an after swim shower liquid which helped to remove any chlorine from skin and hair. I used be able to get it from Sainsbury's but no idea if they still do it.

I did speak to the manager about the "air freshner" in the changing room but she said that they couldn't turn it off as it was maintained by the company providing it. They are a real bugbear for me, in public toilets too.


Thanks all for sharing., interesting to hear about the chlorine allergy and how you get around that with different size pools.

-Have you seen any benefit to your asthma or overall health due to swimming?

- Have you taken any steps to overcome the difficulties presented by your asthma - keeping their inhaler poolside, changing strokes, taking a rest?

- Has a coach or lifeguard has provided any specific support or a tailored approach to accommodate your asthma.

-Whether swimming is preferable to outdoor activities to avoid triggers on high pollen/pollution days ?



My wife has CVA & found whilst on holiday & going swimming every day helps a lot by the end of the week (whether it was the swimming or clearer air we wasn't sure) This year I have managed to find a couple of pools that are easy for her to get into, so we have started going once a week. Every time we go she cough's a lot on first getting into the water, & gives the lifeguards a bit of a panic, but after about half an hour she can start swimming. The coughing sometimes eases off, but If it doesn't she has to use the Ventolin (which we leave by the pool side)

Hi Dita. I don’t swim regularly at the moment but have in the past. I think it did help my asthma in the longer term, as it forces you to control your breathing, and the slow, regular movements are quite calming - it’s a good stress reliever. It did make me wheeze sometimes though if I didn’t pace myself or take my ventolin beforehand, and if I was already wheezy because of a virus or some other trigger I definitely couldn’t manage it.

Overall, I found it easier to tolerate than running, and more enjoyable/beneficial to my lungs in the long term.

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