Swimming in pools containing chlorine often irritates sinuses because the chemical used to purify pool water is a disinfectant that breaks down into hydrochlorous acid. The sensitive mucous membranes inside the nose are not designed to come into contact with such a harsh biocide, which is why swimmers frequently experience dry, itchy sinuses after swimming underwater. Nose plugs prevent this from occurring by effectively pinching the nostrils together and obstructing the flow of chlorinated water into sinus passages.
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Description of Nose Plugs
Nose plugs for swimmers are inexpensive devices generally made of latex plugs attached to a bendable but sturdy wire that fits over the bridge of the nose. Plugs are placed on the outside of each nostril and pinch the nostrils together until air and water are blocked from entering sinus passages. Even professional swimmers not bothered by chlorinated water wear nose plugs because the plugs also prevent the accidental inhalation of water.
Chlorine and Sinusitis
Although swimmers frequently experience recurring bouts of "swimmer's sinusitis," it does not mean they are allergic to the chlorine. Chlorine is an irritant and naturally chafes the delicate membranes inside the nose and nasal passages, causing them to inflame and swell. This is how sinusitis begins, with an ensuing infection probable if the swimmer continues to allow chlorine to aggravate the membranes. Sinusitis often leads to fever, congestion and cough if left untreated. Antibiotics are necessary to eliminate sinusitis once it has developed into an infection.
Swimming with Nose Plugs
Another reason certain swimmers continuously develop irritated sinuses is the way they swim. Performing certain actions such as synchronized swimming, diving or doing flips and landing hard in the water pushes water into the nose with tremendous force. Swimmers who do not use nose plugs and frequently engage in this type of activity might develop polyps inside the nasal passages. Polyps are small bumps of inflamed tissue that can eventually block the airway. Wearing nose plugs prevents chronic sinus infections that facilitate polyp growth.
When sinuses are inflamed and swollen, invasion by bacteria or viruses is possible and even facilitated by the vulnerable condition of weakened airways. Although rare, PAM, or primary ameobic meningoencephalitis, can be contracted by people who have encountered this microorganism while swimming. This potentially deadly bacterium accesses the body only through the nose, so swimmers who wear nose plugs protect themselves from this risk.