According to meteorologists, this summer is expected to be a hot one with many warm days often best spent near water. If you are thinking of taking your children, you will most certainly welcome some answers that our pediatrician has to the most common questions concerning spending time in water during the summer. The answers can serve as a good means of prevention from unexpected consequences that could be associated with children and the time they spend in water.
What age is appropriate for swimming in chlorinated swimming pools or natural swimming pools?
There is no simple answer to this question. Generally speaking, babies can bathe in clear and clean water at home right from birth once the belly button has healed. Swimming pools accessible to general public should not be visited prior to general vaccination, i.e. approximately until 6 months of age. The main issue remains the clarity and quality of water. Hygiene norms with regards to chlorine are much stricter for swimming pools which are intended to be used by infants. As a result there is a difference between pools intended only for small children and those for the public. Keep in mind that at a natural swimming pool, the quality of the water can be better or considerably worse.
What should you watch out for when swimming in natural swimming pools?
With all swimming pools, not just natural ones, parents should always ensure that the water quality is acceptable. Natural swimming pools should be checked for the presence of cyanobacteria (blue-green bacteria) as well as other microorganisms and certainly any chemical contamination. Operators of artificial and natural swimming pools are responsible for maintaining and monitoring water quality. Checks are carried out by the appropriate hygiene agencies. Swimming in nature, i.e. in ponds, lakes and rivers depends on the parents. However, parents should not let their children swim in water which is visibly contaminated. Cloudy water and green particles on its surface do not always mean it is risky or that blue-green bacteria are present. However, children should avoid bathing in such water.
Is it acceptable for children to get their ears wet when by the sea or the pool?
Swimming – whether in the sea, pool or anywhere else – is not really possible without getting the ears wet. A healthy child which has not recently suffered from an inflammation of the middle ear or a different ear infection (and does not suffer from these problems frequently) requires no preventive measures. Children who have suffered from an infection of the middle ear or had their ear drums pierced (or their ear drums ruptured itself) should not swim for three weeks following infection.
Is it necessary to dry children’s ears after swimming?
Caring for the ear is the same regardless of whether it’s in the sea, pool or in a bathtub. Use a dry towel corner to dry the inside of the ear and to wipe off any excess wax that flows out of the ear canal. Deep cleaning using cotton swabs is not recommended.
Is it true that the combination of salt water and chlorinated water can contribute to middle ear and ear infections?
Middle ear infections (otitis) occur for a number of reasons. It is certainly not true that switching between swimming in salt water and then chlorinated water is a factor in inducing an infection. However, a child that has a congenital predisposition to middle ear infections (anatomy factors, weakened immunity etc.) are more likely to get an infection from frequent swimming in any type of water. Further, chlorinated water is known to dry the skin. When repeatedly subjected to chlorine, some more sensitive children can suffer from not only skin problems but also external ear canal infections because its skin surface is weakened and stripped of its natural protective mechanisms.
Do not underestimate the risk of accidents from swimming!
Water is a natural element and children are also very active. It is therefore very important to maintain the basics of prevention when allowing your children to swim at a pool or in the sea. Unfortunately, according to statistics, drowning is the second most common cause of death caused by external causes. Children can drown in water a mere 10cm deep. Injuries associated with swimming are unfortunately not something that does not apply to children.
The key to prevention of any accident is to ensure that small children are not left unattended. This applies to small garden swimming pools as well – for children below the age of 5, these represent a great danger. With older children, please ensure that they know how they should behave when near water (do not run, do not swim in unfamiliar locations, do not jump into water where the depth is unknown etc.). Last but not least, please ensure that you read and follow any instructions and warnings provided at any water rides, slides and similar.