Swimming is a great all-round activity. It is a way to be fit and stay healthy. It strengthens muscles, builds endurance, transforms any swimmer into a cardio god and turns back the ageing clock. It is a low-impact activity with many physical and mental health benefits. But when can you introduce your baby to swimming is a question all parents ponder upon. Here is what you need to know about introducing your child to swimming and the risks that you shouldn’t ignore:
When can babies go to the pool?
Babies are born swimmers. Although they can’t paddle in the water as soon as they take birth, they are born with an excellent ability to control their breathing in water and have a reflex reaction that moves their arms and legs in the swimming motion. The response is called bradycardia or bradycardic reflex.
Generally, the babies lose this natural ability by the age of 6 months. The babies also take a while to learn to support their head to breathe out the water and control their breath intentionally. So, swimming can be dangerous for babies below 2 months and to a public pool, taking a baby below one year is an absolute NO due to the chemicals (Such as Chlorine) present in the pool. They could cause irritation to the eyes and skin of your little one.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, it is best to start formal swimming classes for your child after the age of four years.
Dangers of introducing your baby to swimming too early
1. Swallowing water:
If the babies are introduced to the pool earlier than they are supposed to be, they could swallow a large amount of water while trying to control their breathing. This is a hygiene issue and it can also affect your baby’s sensitive systems.
- Infections: Babies are delicate beings and they also have highly vulnerable immune system. The chemicals used to clean the swimming pool could cause eye infections or rashes to your baby.
- Stomach illness: If the pool is unhygienic, it might contain bacteria and parasites. They might get into your little one’s stomach while they are swimming and might cause stomach illnesses and fever.
- Chlorine exposure: Inhalation of water containing chlorine cause lung infections for babies. It could result in respiratory illness, bronchitis or asthma.
- Hyponatremia or Water intoxication: When the too much water is swallowed, the body resists by its own mechanism. When those signs of resistance are not realized or ignored, it could be fatal to health. In this condition, swallowing too much of water dilutes the amount of sodium in the body causing electrolyte imbalance and swelling of the body cells. This leads to mild to life-threatening health problems such as nausea, vomiting, headache, seizures, and coma.
- Dry drowning: It is not the event that occurs when your child is in the water but it might happen anytime up to 24 hours after swimming or bathing. It is caused when the swallowed water enters lungs. It might close the airway causing spasms or might cause swelling and inflammation of lungs making it difficult to transfer the gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide.
2. Risk of sunburn and sun rashes
Fun in the sun might turn ugly if skin turns red. Since your little one has very tender skin, too much of exposure to the sun during the swimming time could cause rashes and sunburn. So, take precautions to avoid the harm for your little one’s skin. Choose the morning or evening time to swim, when the sun is not as harsh.
Babies need a slightly warmer pool. The ideal temperature for the baby pool is 30 to 32 degree Celsius. Anything more than that could cause hyperthermia in your baby. It causes headache, light-headedness, vomiting, drowsiness and could also lead to severe dehydration, hallucinations and even coma.
If the temperature of the pool is lower than the recommended temperature, it might lead to hypothermia. This could cause uncontrollable shivering, numbness, loss of coordination, slurred speech, blue-grey skin, slow or halted breathing, and a loss of consciousness and could even lead to death in more severe cases.
So keep your children safe and don't rush into swimming lessons just yet. Make sure to keep an eye on them and carry enough drinking water and sunscreen to keep your child safe from dehydration and sunburn.