Newcomers to the wet world of swimming often become confused when they suddenly find themselves stricken with a runny nose after spending some time in the pool or pond. Sneezing and a runny nose after swimming is a fairly common side effect of swimming.
You'll need to manage this condition properly to prevent more serious nasal issues such as sinus problems.
Water and Your Nose
Proper swimming technique involves inhaling when your mouth and nose are above the level of the water and exhaling when your mouth and nose are in the water according to Swimming.org. Your exhalation can be explosive or gradual. At some point during swimming, many swimmers, especially those who spend a lot of time in pools and those who haven't perfected their technique, allow water to enter their nasal passages.
Your nose is lined with a mucous membrane that is highly sensitive to infections and inflammation from bacteria, viruses and environmental irritants. Frequently, when water enters your nasal passages repeatedly during swimming, the nasal tissue becomes inflamed and produces excessive amounts of nasal discharge, or a runny nose.
Pool Chemicals and Dirty Water
Although the exact cause of excessive nasal discharge after swimming varies by person, this condition seems to arise most frequently from environmental irritants, such as pool chemicals and dirty water. These irritants come in contact with your mucous membranes and cause swelling or inflammation, often because of an allergy or sensitivity to chlorine according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In many cases, the swelling prevents your sinuses from draining, which may lead to additional problems, including bacteria growth and a potentially painful sinus infection.
What Happens to You
A runny nose and other related symptoms generally arise within a few hours of swimming and may continue for 12 to 24 hours. Other symptoms you may experience include nasal congestion and sneezing. A headache, sinus pressure and nighttime cough may also occur if you develop a sinus infection, or acute sinusitis, which may last as long as a month according to Harvard Health and generally is characterized by cloudy yellow or green mucus discharge.
Treatments for a Runny Nose
Talk to your primary care doctor or an otolaryngologist for suggested home remedies and treatment options geared toward your specific health situation, especially if you have a history of allergies, asthma or nasal abnormalities, such as polyps or a deviated septum. In some cases, using a saline nasal spray after swimming may help clean out your nasal passages and reduce associated nasal discharge. Use the saline nasal spray for only a few days, recommends Massachusetts Eye and Ear, as it may cause further congestion.
You can also try using a nose clip, which prevents water from entering your nose while you swim. If you find a nose clip uncomfortable, aim to perfect your swimming technique, paying particular attention to exhaling through your nose — instead of your mouth — while swimming, which will help minimize the accumulation of water in your nose.