28 June 2017

Water Babies

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When you are considering taking your baby swimming for the first time there are many questions needing answers. So, we asked the experts at 'Swimming Times' for their advice on infant swimming.

Is it a good idea to familiarise babies with water?
Babies have a natural affinity for the water and early exposure to it is strongly recommended. Contact with water in infancy will not only encourage the desire to swim but reduce the chances of a child developing a fear of water. In fact, the sooner a child is introduced to water, the less likely it is to be afraid. Taking a baby swimming to an adequately heated and maintained public pool at the age of six months is the suggested advice. Before this age, preliminary swimming skills can be taught in the bath at home.

Should we be concerned about water temperature where babies are concerned?
Because a baby's surface area is considerably greater in relation to its size than that of an adult, it will lose heat more quickly, leading in turn to a greater risk of hypothermia. For this reason it is essential that the water temperature is appropriate, not too cold, and that the swim does not last too long. This will avoid stressing the child and dropping its core temperature. If a child is taken swimming from the age of six months or so, and water conditions are satisfactory, the risk of hypothermia is minimised.

Are babies likely to be affected by the chemicals in the water?
A baby's skin is more delicate than an adult's and the chemicals used to sterilise swimming pool water can have an adverse effect on it. For this reason, swimming from the age of six months rather than earlier seems a reasonable suggestion.

What advice can you give about nappies and making sure a baby does not soil the pool water?
Anyone taking a baby to a swimming pool needs to remember that it does not have bowel or bladder control and that precautions need to be taken. Nappies are essential, of course and so is an elasticated swimming costume to help contain solid faeces in the event of soiling. Facilities for changing babies and dealing with nappies should be available at all pools, together with appropriate mats to avoid contaminating facilities that others may use. If there is any contamination of the water by faeces, vomit or blood, a member of the pool staff must be contacted immediately. The pool will have contingency plans for dealing with such an emergency.

Are you running any serious health risk by taking your baby to a swimming pool?
The chlorine or ozone used in modern swimming pools makes the likelihood of transmitting infections such as polio, tetanus, etc extremely unlikely, so the immunisation status of the baby is not a major factor when considering the age at which it can swim. The standard course of three injections against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) plus the oral polio vaccine, are now completed by the age of five months. A study from Cologne University in 1997 showed that there was no greater incidence of infection in babies that swim compared to babies that did not visit swimming pools.

Is it all right to take a baby swimming when it has a cold or other minor ailment?
Babies suffering from a cold or mild viral illness are best advised to avoid swimming. Babies whose immunity is impaired for any reason should avoid public swimming pools, mainly to prevent coming into contact with children with upper respiratory and other infections.

Is there any risk of a baby swallowing water and if so what action should be taken?
The risk of a small baby swallowing large amounts of water, leading to a fall in the body's sodium level (hyponatraemia), water intoxication or seizures, is very small. Accidental inhalation, however, may result in a fear of water. If inhalation does take place, advice should be sought.


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