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out any water that gets in his or her
Can children who have casts
go swimming?
It depends on the type of cast:
Plaster cast.
If your child has a
plaster cast over cloth wrapping, he or
she must stay out of the water. Trying
to protect a plaster cast with plastic
bags generally isn’t effective.
Fiberglass cast.
If your child
has a fiberglass cast that’s lined with a
water-repellent liner, it’s usually OK to
swim - as long as you have the doctor’s
OK. After swimming, it’s important to
thoroughly rinse the inside of the cast
with clean water. Generally, you can
allow the cast to air-dry.
Can children swim if they
have ear tubes?
If your child has ear tubes - tiny
cylinders placed through the eardrum
to drain fluid and allow air into the
middle ear - ask his or her doctor
about ear protection for swimming.
Some doctors recommend that
children who have ear tubes wear
earplugs or swimming caps while
swimming to prevent bacteria from
entering the middle ear. However,
routine use of earplugs may only be
needed when children dive or swim
in untreated water, such as lakes and
What’s the best way to
prevent swimmer’s ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection that’s
often treated with prescription
To prevent swimmer’s ear:
• Encourage your child to wear
earplugs while swimming
• Dry your child’s ears with a towel
or hair dryer on a low setting after
• Use isopropyl alcohol-based
eardrops - or a 1-to-1 mixture of
isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar,
as long as your child doesn’t have
ear tubes - to clear water from your
child’s ear.
Don’t use cotton swabs in your child’s
ears, which can scratch the ear canal
and create a potential site for infection.
What about red eyes after
Exposure to chlorine may leave your
child with red or puffy eyes. To ease
discomfort and reduce redness after
swimming, rinse your child’s eyes with
a sterile eyewash or an artificial tears
solution. To prevent red or puffy eyes,
encourage your child to wear goggles
while swimming.
What’s the best age to begin
swimming lessons?
Many kids learn to ride a bike and to
swim on their own at the same age —
often the summer before kindergarten.
The American Academy of Pediatrics
supports swimming lessons for most
children age 4 and older. If you choose
to enroll a child younger than age 4 in
a swimming program, pick one that
doesn’t require placing his or her head
underwater. This will limit the amount
of water your child may swallow.
Can children swimwhen
they’re sick or have cuts and
It’s fine for children who have colds
or other minor illnesses to swim, as
long as they feel well enough to do so.
Likewise, it’s OK for children to swim
with cuts and scrapes — as long as the
wounds aren’t bleeding.
What about swimming after
It’s OK to swim immediately after a
light meal or snack. If your child feels
lethargic after eating a heavy meal,
however, encourage him or her to take
a break before swimming.
Are hot tubs safe for
Children can quickly become
overheated in a hot tub or spa. If you
allow your child to use a hot tub or
spa, keep the visit brief — and don’t
allow your child to put his or her head
underwater. This can increase the risk
of ear infections. Far worse, long hair
can get caught in an uncovered hot tub
grate and cause drowning. Remember,
too, that children in diapers shouldn’t
use a hot tub or spa.
Is it OK for your diaper-clad
toddler to splash in the local
pool? Can your child safely
wear a cast or ear tubes in
the water? Could bacteria
lurking in the pool or lake
make your little one sick?
Before you help your child
suit up - or decide to skip
the water altogether - here
are some practical tips for
kids’ swimming from Jay
Hoecker, M.D., emeritus
pediatrics specialist at Mayo
Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Can babies or toddlers wear
diapers in the water?
Various types of diapers are designed
for underwater use. They’re water-
repellent and fit snugly around a
child’s thighs and waist, but they’re not
waterproof. If your child has a bowel
movement in the water, fecal material
may escape the diaper. A dirty diaper
might contain diarrhea-causing germs,
including the parasite cryptosporidium
- which can contaminate pool water or
other swimming areas. In otherwise
healthy people, a cryptosporidium
infection causes upset stomach and
diarrhea. The consequences can be
more severe for people who have weak
immune systems.
Urine in the water is less risky than
feces, but it’s difficult to separate the
two when children wear diapers. If you
choose to allow your child to swim in
a diaper, take regular breaks to change
the diaper or use the toilet. Don’t allow
swimming if your child has diarrhea.
In addition, children in diapers
shouldn’t use hot tubs or spas.
Is it risky for children to
swallow pool water?
Your child is bound to take a few gulps
of pool water at one time or another,
especially when first learning to swim.
A little swallowed pool water isn’t
typically cause for concern, but too
much pool water can lead to illness.
Don’t allow your child to drink pool
water, and encourage your child to spit
July/Aug 2014