Two months ago Sue, 69, who has never suffered from asthma or any other breathing problem in the past, suddenly found herself gasping for breath.
‘I felt as if my throat and oesophagus were closing up,’ says Sue.
Sue is convinced the problem is related to the indoor swimming baths. ‘I spend half the year in Turkey and swim every day outside in a pool or the sea there and never have this problem,’ she says.
She may be right, because although a trip to the pool is the perfect exercise for many, the chlorine used to keep the water free from germs can trigger problems.
‘Chlorinated environments can make people feel as if they are choking or have difficulty breathing,’ says Dr. James Hull, consultant respiratory physician at Royal Brompton Hospital, London.
But in most cases it’s not the chlorine that triggers problems, but the by-products formed when chlorine interacts with other substances — and this is mostly down to people not showering before they enter the pool.
‘This then poisons the water for them and for others,’ says Dr. Hull. ‘The chlorine interacts with sweat and urine (and beauty products such as moisturiser) on the skin and forms by-products called chloramines that float above the surface as a gaseous solution that can be inhaled.’
Chloramines are heavier than air so hang over the water where they are easily inhaled. Some believe they may cause lung disorders. A Swedish study in 2013 examining the health of 146 workers at 46 indoor pools found that 17 per cent had airway trouble at work — but no problems at home.
So, everyone should shower before swimming. As Dr. Hull says: ‘People need to remember that showering isn’t just for them. It is for the greater good.’