I am mum to an 8-month-old boy. He loves his bath and paddling pool. Is it safe to put him in a baby pool (in his bath seat, of course)? I am worried about the effect of chlorine—both when swallowed and when it inevitably gets into his eyes. Pools in Karachi are filtered with chlorine water and I find it affects adult eyes (mild stinging). Please advise if and at what age contact with chlorine is suitable for young infants.
Submitted by Fareshteh in Karachi
A:Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, M.D., M.P.H.
Fareshteh, it’s great that your baby loves to play in water. Many babies enjoy the feel of water on their skin, kicking their arms and legs and splashing around, and cooling off in warm weather. As you’ve mentioned, though, it’s crucial that you keep your baby safe. Here are some good precautions to take in the bath and the pool:
- Protect your baby from drowning. Babies can drown in as little as an inch of water. Although the bath seat may seem safe, it can slip and your baby can fall under the water. So be sure you always hold him when he’s in the water.
- Avoid spreading germs. Children’s wading pools and swimming pools can spread bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes more severe illnesses. Babies who are in nappys commonly spread germs that are carried in their feces. And since babies’ immune systems are less mature, they’re more susceptible to getting sick from the germs. Chlorine is added to the water to reduce the germs—it is considered safe in small amounts (it’s even put in public drinking water), but it’s not always effective at killing all the germs, and it stings when it gets in our eyes. If you take your baby to a wading or swimming pool, take the following precautions to avoid illness and discomfort:
- Keep your baby’s face out of the water so he doesn’t swallow water and get chlorine in his eyes.
- After bathing in the pool, rinse him off with soap and water.
- Consider having your baby play in his own wading pool or basin with fresh water. Or let him play in a sprinkler, hose, or spray of water. These are safer than taking your baby to a public pool because you can avoid the problem of germs and chlorine.