I signed Corey up for swimming lessons at the grand old age of 6 months. Not because I was looking to nurture the next Joseph Schooling (although the tiger mom in me thinks that would be cool too). Rather I had a more imperative health reason for doing so.
His allergist had ordered swimming lessons as part of his eczema treatment plan. Yup you heard right. To some, this probably sounds absurd. And for many who heard it for the first time from me would say ‘doesn’t swimming make his eczema worse?’
I was definitely hesitant. Everything I had read up to this point told me that swimming might irritate eczema skin further. Some eczema mamas have also commented that swimming caused their babies to flare.
“Really? Are you sure it will help Corey’s eczema skin? I asked skeptically.
“YES IT WOULD” he replied without hesitation. “Swim regularly and just remember to moisturise him quickly once out of the pool.”
So off we went and booked our first lesson for baby swimming.
OUR FIRST LESSON:
FUN was not exactly the word I would use to describe how I felt when we first entered the swimming pool. A slew of anxiety was running through my head that got me really tensed and nervous. The thought of dipping my rash filled eczema baby into a chlorine treated pool, which only God knows contained how much human bodily waste, was enough to scare the shit of out me (thankfully not literary otherwise I would have been truly embarrassed for adding to said bodily waste in pool).
But we were committed, I had checked and double checked that the composition of the pool we had chosen was salt chlorinated (More gentle on the skin and eyes than traditional treatments). It was a respectable swim school in Singapore and was highly recommended by other mums.
Corey’s falls asleep when he first got into the pool..
I remember vividly Corey had been a bit grouchy that morning. Probably from the broken sleep caused by itching the night before. He was mildly interested when we got into the pool, but was so tired he dozed off. YES, while coach was starting pool warm ups, his eyelids started to droop! then he fell asleep in my lap! I thought, great, maybe this swimming treatment isn’t going to work out for us (or maybe I was finding excuses in my head to remove him from the pool for fear of him reacting).
Then five minutes later, as if somebody had hit his reset button, he woke up from his power nap. It took him a few seconds to adjust to the strange environment of waking up in a pool. But once he did, he broke into a huge smile and started bouncing up and down in excitement. Watching him squeal in delight while he explored this new found experience, I too started to smile and my fears and anxiety melted away.
And he didn’t scratch or let on he was at all uncomfortable for the rest of that lesson 🙂
Getting out of the pool for the first time..
Getting out of the pool for the first time was a harrowing experience. It was a flurry of activity to give him a quick rinse, keep his hands busy with toys and give him a lather of moisturizer all over, all the while making sure he did not scratch. After that is was a quick drive home, then for another bath and a full skincare routine.
It was definitely tiring but his smiles during the lesson told me it was worth the inconvenience.
PROS and CONS OF SWIMMING
That was our first time and it has been two years of swimming since.
I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute of it, given the logistical nightmare of everything thats goes into the planning and execution of his before and after skincare. But the joy on his face every time he was in the water was too precious to stop.
And unlike what I have read, he never developed any flares when he was swimming. He also hardly scratched when he was in the water.
So the question I think eczema mama’s should be asking themselves is,
do the pros outweigh the cons for you and your baby when it comes to swimming for eczema babies.
My own experience says the answer is yes. But you definitely have to do some homework before throwing your bub into the next pool you see.
- Why swimming helps? It starves off that pesky Staph bacteria. Similar to a bleach bath, swimming in chlorinated water helps to disinfect the skin. It will starve off that horrible staphylococcus aureus bacteria (staph) which is what makes eczema is persistent in the first place. This gives the good skin a chance to heal and if coupled with a good skincare regime, stubborn patches should get smaller with time.
- Babies generally love water. It distracts them from the itch. Keeping their hands busy with toys in the pool also reduces the tendency to scratch.
- Exercise builds their immunity and also strengthens their lungs (and possibly reduces their chances of developing the good friend of eczema, asthma.)
- It is easy to administer. Just find an appropriate pool and go!
- There wasn’t any immediate miracle changes to his skin. But it also did not make his eczema worse and he never flared from being in the pool.
- Why it may not work for some: Just as a bleach bath has different concentrations, swimming pools have different compositions of chlorine or salt. Due to higher human traffic, a public pool is probably dirtier than a private one. Public pools may therefore use stronger concentrations of chlorine which might irritate the skin. The solution: find a private pool where you can ask questions. Corey’s swim school is pretty responsive, they entertained queries on how the pool is treated and were able to explain.
- Skin becomes dry after coming out of pool. Once he gets out, I rinse him once over with water, then it’s time to keep his hands busy while I lather on the moisturiser. Then we head home and I do his usual skincare routine
RELATED POST: 4 Simple Steps to healing skincare for eczema babies
This week, he drew a ‘swimming pool’ for coach as a present for teacher’s day. My little water baby has grown to love swimming and looks forward to this weekly lessons with his beloved coach.
Heck, if you based your decision just by looking at Corey’s photos, wouldn’t you agree it is enough to convince anyone that swimming is good for eczema babies? But just remember, always do your homework to check that your chosen pool is of acceptable standards.
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