[466] Swimming pool chlorine triggers oppositional defiance (November 2006)

Part one: In the last five weeks our son’s ODD behaviour has been getting steadily worse. A lot of the time he is fine (with flashes of naughtiness), and then BANG, major, violent tantrum. I have just gone over the diary fairly meticulously and noticed that exactly five weeks ago he started swimming lessons in the local swimming school. The very next day after his first lesson, I noted that he seemed to be a bit irritated, and was a bit irritated on a couple of other days that week.

The following Saturday, after the lesson, I noted that he seemed grumpy, but it was short lived and reappeared off and on a couple of days later.  By the Tuesday we had a screaming tantrum (unheard of for weeks and weeks). From there on the irritation was there much more often, and every couple of days he would be in timeout, mouthing off (ODD raising it's ugly head).

The last three weeks have been not good for him (or us) and this morning, I could see it coming on before school and sure enough we had a huge tantrum, where he was threatening to hit me with the toilet brush (he was timing out in the bathroom), he was being really nasty calling me names etc and was out to hurt me.  When I got him to school (he had calmed down and was really sorry by then), I had to warn his teacher.  I was thinking of taking him out of school until he calms down again, or at least until we find what is causing this.

Could this all be coming from chlorine?  Usually after the swimming lesson we would take him to the local pool next day to practice so there's a double dose. He has always swum in our spa and his cousin's pool with no ill effects, however is it possible the swimming school and public pools would be more heavily chlorinated than the normal backyard one?

(Sue: It is common for ODD kids to react badly to chlorine, and yes, the chlorine level in public pools is usually much heavier than home pools. Some people get around it by having the child wear goggles -you can easily absorb toxic chemicals through your eyes - and shower immediately after leaving the pool. Others prefer to swim in fresh water swimming holes, the sea, salt water pools, or low chlorine pools.)

Part two: another look at the diary shows that for the last three weeks we have had a major tantrum on the afternoon following the lesson and then again the next day after the local pool - the reason for the behaviour was staring me in the face, and I didn't see it as I was looking for food triggers.

I have looked back further in the diary, where it showed the last real tantrum was during the last school holidays. I had noted that he had been at the local pool that morning, and lost the plot in the afternoon, so I don't think I need any more proof than that! I wish I had twigged earlier, I kept looking for food reasons.  I'm really pleased it wasn't food. – by email, NT