View Full Version : Swimming Allergy

August 15th, 2009, 10:31 AM
Greetings, I just joined this group last night (08/14) due to my latest round of allergy attack prompted by swimming. Briefly, I am 61 yrs old, swam distance, some masters, and college intermurals from age 20 - 40. Around 40 I developed allergy to something in the pool, worked with allergy clinic at Ohio State Medical Center. Doc could not figure it out. Was on med for awhile that worked, but it was taken off the market.

I finally gave up, went to running long distance for the next 21 years. Lately I have been tiring of running, have tried on a few occasions to return to swimming, this past week for example. Mon. 1000 yds, Wed 500 yds, Fri. 1000 yds. Started some sneezing during the week, determined I could beat it this time until Friday night and a huge allergy attack, repeated sneezing, runy nose, burning eyes......and I am about to admit defeat again. It is very unpleasant, very disruptive.

I do not have other allergies. In a regular year I dont even typically get sick, maybe the rare sneezing. Also live with 4 dogs, two of them big GSDs, meaning lots of dog dander. No problem.

Go swimming a few days in a row and it is a disaster, same as 20 years ago when I finally switched to running. I would like to get back to swimming, but.............

There is a lot of insight and experience in this group. Does anyone have any ideas about this, antidotes, medications, techniques to address this problem? Any thoughts will be appreciated. I may return to OSU allergy clinic, see what they will say. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome.
Skip Cornett
Columbus, OH

Alexander Hughes
August 15th, 2009, 05:50 PM
I've heard a few swimmers who have an allergic reaction to chlorine. I would try a nose plug to keep the water, and any chemicals in it out of your nose. Goggles to protect the eyes, make sure they are adjusted correctly to keep water out. This is what I heard of them trying with some decent results.

For the allergic reaction itself try an antihistamine, something over the counter like Benadryl to provide some relief for the symptoms.

This is not a substitute for real medical advice, just one swimmer passing on ideas to another.

August 15th, 2009, 06:23 PM
I'll tell you my story, maybe it will help you?

I react to chloramines, which are present in (hopefully) trace amounts in chlorinated pools, but which may be present in very high levels in pools that haven't been "shocked" recently. While the body usually doesn't react to the chlorine it does react to chloramines I believe.

The symptoms are the worst when I get such poorly treated water in my nose, such as on backstroke turns. Then I'll spend the entire evening with what feels like a bad cold - very runny nose, sneezing a lot.

As an example, I swam for a short time at a fitness club pool. The pool wasn't really their main focus...it was a stuffy pool, cloudy water, and (I suspect) a lot of chloramines. So I switched to a university pool, and swam with their masters groups. It was very well maintained and I had only a little sensitivity from that pool.

I'd recommend finding a competition pool in your area - either a competitive club pool, or a university pool (OSU?). i.e. some pool that gets used by *real* swimmers, who know when something isn't quite right with the pool water, and that typically hire professionals to maintain the pool.

If it turns out you are *highly* sensitive to something in the water, such as trace chloramine levels, then you might be able to find a pool that doesn't use that particular substance, if it is a chemical or byproduct that is the problem.

One more thing, you would want to avoid a pool that is really crowded, because I think that urine/sweat combined with chlorine could produce chloramines.

August 15th, 2009, 09:46 PM
I suffered similar problems many years ago. I'm not an otherwise allergic person, but after a swim my nose would run, I would sneeze constantly and after a few hours of that I would feel completely run down. Nose plugs don't work for me.

I talked to my doctor and we came up with plan. I take one Allegra 180mg antihistamine before I swim and then a once daily spritz in the nose of a Flonase type nose spray. It completely cured the sinus reaction to my swimming. It was amazing. What I also found was that if I swam first thing in the morning, my allergic reaction was far worse than if I swam later in the day. Whether this is due to a different chemical balance of the pool during the day or my body being less sensitive later in the day...I have no idea. But, I do know that my allergic reactions were so bad, I thought I was going to have to give up swimming if I couldn't change it. I find the negatives of taking these drugs is not nearly as bad as the negatives of not swimming/exercising.

Good luck.

August 16th, 2009, 05:58 AM
One more thing, you would want to avoid a pool that is really crowded, because I think that urine/sweat combined with chlorine could produce chloramines.

You're right, it is all related to dirty water. The dirtier the water the more I sneeze. And clean water has been something of a rarity this summer with all the kids inundating the pool over the summer holidays. If I go first thing in the morning when the filters have been working overnight, I am fine. But if I go in the afternoon when they have already had 6 or 7 groups of kids through the pool, and the water is murky, I know I am in for a rough night.

I suffer terribly from sneezing fits after swimming. It can go on for hours on end. The more I blow my nose, the more I sneeze. I get some relief from rinsing my nose out with warm water from the tap. Using a hair-dryer on the bridge of my nose afterwards helps, too, as does some form of nasal inhaler.

The only thing that is going to help is a nose plug or a cleaner pool.

August 16th, 2009, 01:42 PM
Chlorine is still the safe bet for water purification.

See what happens when you use saline http://www.newspapersites.net/newspaper/news-and-weekender.asp

August 16th, 2009, 02:46 PM
I get really bad sneezing and burning eyes from swimming as well. The chlorine has a tendency to really dry out these areas, so as mentioned, goggles and a nose clip will probably help alot. Definitely have a chat with your doc if things get worse, as I am sure he can recommend something that will allow you to continue to enjoy swimming.

August 18th, 2009, 12:16 AM
I suffer terribly from sneezing fits after swimming. It can go on for hours on end. The more I blow my nose, the more I sneeze. I get some relief from rinsing my nose out with warm water from the tap. Using a hair-dryer on the bridge of my nose afterwards helps, too, as does some form of nasal inhaler.

The only thing that is going to help is a nose plug or a cleaner pool.

This works for me (as long as I use it within an hour or so of coming out of the pool): http://www.unimedprod.com/differences.shtml

It's basically just a plastic bottle and some packets of salt (which keep your sinuses from "burning"), and you use warm tap water to flush your sinuses out. Be careful not to use it before going into a social situation as occasionally your sinuses will drain suddenly when you least expect it.

August 18th, 2009, 12:21 AM
Your cure is worse then the sneezing.

August 18th, 2009, 02:01 AM
Your cure is worse then the sneezing.:rofl:

Not quite, George. Believe me it is terrible. It can go on for hours on end with no relief. Sometimes it is so bad my chest starts to ache from the continual sneezing. I am willing to try any form of treatment. I would probably sniff hot coals up my nose if I knew that would help.

You see, you have been spoilt swimming in all those pristine BC lakes. Nothing is going to make you sneeze in there. Nothing can survive in that cold water!

August 18th, 2009, 06:48 AM
I always have a non-stop runny nose and major sneeze attacks from swimming that last up to 2 days after my workout. At the moment I just have tissues with me all the time. The pool I go to doesn't seem to have too much chlorine so it's not as bad as in other pools.

The BEST solution I ever found was this nose clip: Amazon.com: Speedo Competition Nose Clip: Sports & Outdoors

Speedo has a different nose clip that always slips or breaks(fully made out of plastik) but this one works great. You have to get used to only breathing through your mouth which takes a while. You also might look funny with the nose clip but with the clip I never had a runny nose or sneeze attacks again no matter at what pool I swim.

I find the clip to be a compromise and better than medication. It is better to prevent an allergy from the start than treating the syptoms. I would try it. Maybe it will be the solution and it only costs a few bucks.

When it comes to your eyes: GOGGLES!!!

August 18th, 2009, 09:53 AM
Wow! I could have wrote the start of this thread....thanks for the great ideas... I too, find that the day and time I swim makes a difference... I have always assumed that it was due to the timing of treatments etc.....

August 20th, 2009, 02:22 AM
1: Talk to the manager of the largest pool you can find and ask him if there is a pool in the area that uses a non-chlorine disinfectant. If you can find a pool with an alternate disinfectant, perhaps you may find one that doesn't trigger your allergy.

2: As was said above, try to find a pool that virtually no one uses (eg, a backyard pool that is well maintained but rarely used). Even if you can only get one half-hour swim in it, you may have extra data.

3. I wonder whether using a snorkel might also help minimize allergen exposure.

4. Have you tried swimming in a river, lake, or ocean to see how they affect you? If the trigger is disinfectant chemicals, maybe you should become an open-water swimmer.

5. Indoor pools are notorious for their higher level of chemicals. (I don't mean to say there aren't well run indoor pools.) But outdoor pools are exposed to pollens. Do you react differently?

6. Do take a vigorous shower with soap after swimming to remove as many chemicals as possible from your skin, esp. around your hair, face & hands.

I would think most if not all large public pools supply disinfectants at close to a constant rate all day long. There can be effects due to usage of the pool or weather/sunshine that may make the levels in the pool vary during the day -- but they shouldn't vary by that much in a well maintained pool.

A few years ago, I started having difficulty getting enough air in workout. I figured it was just being badly out of shape but eventually I realized it was (exercise induced) asthma (other medication contributed to it), which an inhaler helped. The odd thing is that I can work out until I drop on an (indoor) exercise bike and the asthma never hits there. I have had a few exercise induced incidents outside of swimming, but it makes me wonder if there are contributing factors such as chemicals/pollen in the pool, body position, or body temperature.

August 20th, 2009, 07:31 AM
I've had a stuffy nose and sneeze attacks from my last swim on Tuesday after I posted that nose clips are the most effective method.
I had my nose clip with me but I didn't use it.

Today I will make the test.

My normal reaction without the nose clip is: severe runny nose that turns stuffy, sneeze attacks with up to 4-5 sneezes in a row which usually lasts for two days.

I will post my result after my swim later on WITH the nose clip.

August 20th, 2009, 10:04 AM
never had that problem with pool swimming, but man I can't stop sneezing or get my nose to stop after a open fresh water swim.

after all 4 of my summer races 1km up to 5km I sneezed for up to 20 minutes after and then spent the following 24hrs feeling like I had a head cold.

but the same holds true for my practices in the lake. the only thing I could think of is some kind of pollen allergy that doesn't really effect me on land because its not such a high concentration, but the level of pollen on the water surface must be higher.

August 20th, 2009, 01:39 PM
You didn't mention whether you were swimming indoors or outdoors.
Indoors, this type of problem is usually caused by chloramines, which are produced when chlorine reacts with nitrogen-containing compounds, such as sweat and urine. Levels are usually higher in the summer, due to the hot weather and greater number of kids using the pool during swim lessons and camps. Chloramines can be irritating to the nose and lungs, but this is not a true allergy. As some of the other posters have mentioned, this is not a problem in pools that do not use chlorine-based chemicals, but those are uncommon in the U.S. You might want to talk to the pool manager to see if the ventilation system is working properly, to enforce rules requiring a shower before swimming (removes sweat and sunscreen), and to encourage kids to use the bathroom before swimming. You can also talk to your doctor about a steroid nasal spray, which may reduce the inflammation in the nose. I'm not sure what you used in the past, but allergy pills are usually not that helpful.
Chloramines are rarely a problem in outdoor pools. However, people can have allergies to trees, grass, pollen, etc. Again, you can talk to your doctor about testing and treatment for outdoor allergies.
Hope this helps, and keep on kickin'.