Why Does Swimming and Nasal Congestion Happen — and What to Do About It

To keep water out of your nose, release a slow stream of air while your head is under water.
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Doing any sport with a congested, runny nose makes the workout feel ‌way‌ harder than it needs to be. And swimming is certainly no exception.


Learn why you may be experiencing nasal congestion after swimming in the ocean or pool and how you can prevent unwanted running (pun intended) during your workout.

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4 Reasons Why You Get a Stuffy Nose After Swimming

1. You Have Water Up Your Nose

For some swimmers, congestion after swimming in the pool or ocean is, simply, water up your nose, according to U.S. Masters Swimming. Even skilled athletes can get water up their nose, especially if they're practicing the backstroke.

2. You Have Allergies

If you swim outdoors, seasonal allergies may be causing your post-swim congestion, per U.S. Masters Swimming. Not only are you inhaling outdoor air but pollen and grasses can gather on the surface of the water, causing sinus irritation.

In some cases, perfumes and scented lotions from other swimmers can even leach into the water, which can also be irritating.


3. You Have a Chlorine Allergy

Believe it or not, chlorine allergies are a thing. So, if you notice a runny nose after a pool workout and not an ocean session, the chemicals may be the cause.

Generally, chlorine allergies cause itchy skin or redness but may also cause irritation to your respiratory tract (including sneezing and a runny nose), especially for those who already have sensitive airways, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.


4. You Have Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an infection of the lining of your sinuses near your nose, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. And swimming or diving are a common cause of this condition.

Often, symptoms of sinusitis include congestion, a runny nose, coughing or headache. Treatment for sinusitis can vary depending on the severity of your condition but in some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, depending on the level of infection.



How Long Does Swimmer's Sinusitis Last?

Typically, symptoms of sinusitis, including coughing or a runny nose, shouldn't last much longer than 7 to 10 days, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.

If your sympoms worsen or persist, it's best that you see a doctor to get proper treatment.

How to Get Rid of a Stuffy Nose After Swimming

Swimming with nasal congestion isn't exactly fun but there are a few things that can help your problem. The simplest solution? Exhale through your nose as you swim, not just out your mouth. While your head is in the water, release a small, steady stream of air through your nose to prevent any water from entering.

Another tip: Blow your nose. If you're experiencing congestion after swimming in the ocean, you can go ahead and just blow your nose in the water. However, if you're in the pool, that's probably not the polite thing to do, so keep a a spare towel or pack of tissues close.


Swimming with a nose plug is another way to prevent water from getting into your nose. These are inexpensive pieces of rubber that you place on top of your nose to keep it shut during your swim workout.

If your runny nose only comes after swimming in an ocean or lake, allergies may be the cause. So, check pollen counts online, as the air (not the water) may be the actual problem.


And if these don't do the trick, consulting a doctor may be the best solution. On the off chance that you have sinusitis from swimming (and it won't go away), it's best to see a professional.




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