Signs & Symptoms of a Child Drinking Too Much Pool Water

By Jonita Davis
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It is common for kids to get water in their mouths while swimming in a pool. Although parents usually urge the children not to, they may even drink some of the water while playing. Swallowing a little water is harmless. Too much water can cause some health problems for the child. The signs and symptoms of pool-water-related conditions may not appear for a few hours after leaving the pool, up to a few days later. You can learn these first and later signs and symptoms caused by the child drinking too much pool water. Doing so may just save your child from severe illness.

The Illness Possibilities

One of the concerns about pool water lies in the microscopic beings that tend to inhabit the water. Pool water is known to contain pathogens such as E. coli and parasites, despite the presence of chlorine. The chlorine itself can cause kids to get sick if it is present in the pool at very high concentration levels. When a kid drinks too much pool water and gets sick with a pathogen or from too much chlorine, the condition is called recreational water illness. Too much chlorine is also called chlorine poisoning. Another condition caused by gulping pool water into the lungs is secondary drowning, another name for pulmonary edema (fluid filling the lungs).

The First Symptoms

After leaving the pool, the child may not exhibit symptoms immediately. It may take a few hours (or up to 72 for secondary drowning) before the signs of the swallowed water become visible. In those early moments, the symptoms to expect are upset stomach, vomiting, a persistent cough, breathing difficulty and/or fatigue. These are the first signs and symptoms of chlorine poisoning, recreational water illness and secondary drowning. The conditions distinguish themselves later. Secondary drowning becomes fully respiratory, while recreational water illness and chlorine poisoning both affect the digestive system. Chlorine poisoning also causes symptoms in the nervous and respiratory systems. This all comes later.

Later Symptoms

When the early symptoms are too mild to notice or don't occur at all, later, more severe symptoms will occur. Within 24 to 72 hours of leaving the pool, a child with chlorine poisoning will have vision problems, swelling and/or burning in his eyes, throat, nose and ears from the excess chlorine. Secondary drowning victims will have increased difficulty breathing along with uncontrollable shivering, heat and cold flashes and heavy, wet-sounding, persistent coughs. Children with recreational water illness will also experience worsening symptoms that resemble a severe case of food poisoning or stomach flu.

The Warning Signs to Watch For

After a child is finished playing in the pool, check her out for skin redness and irritation around the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. This is a sign of high chlorine concentration levels. Listen for the cough that will not go away. It is a symptom in two of the illnesses -- recreational water illness and pathogen contamination. Also look for any behaviors or actions that resemble flu or food poisoning. If you witness these, get the child some medical attention very quickly.

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