View Full Version : Water in Lungs?

October 14th, 2011, 11:22 PM
Hi! This is my first post. I just started Masters Swimming and had a scary incident happen.

I have a terrible kick, so my coach has been doing a lot of leg drills with me. Last night, he had me swim with fins in a side stroke position with flippers on. I did 8 sets of 75 yards.

By the last set, I started wheezing (I don't have asthma), and my lungs were gurgling. I couldn't stop coughing.. and I found I couldn't swim anymore.

All last night, upon exhalation, my lungs would make a loud wheezing/percolating sound. It's fine today, but my lungs are really sore from coughing.

Did I swallow water? Maybe, I didn't really notice.

I've Googled like crazy, and haven't been able to find anything, except for SIPE (swimming induced pulmonary edema). But, everything that I read, points to open water swimming. I was in a chlorinated pool. I also didn't cough up the pink, frothy stuff they talk about. I did notice a tiny bit of blood, but I think it was from coughing so hard... but I did have the same type of experience with the wheezing and rattling in the chest.

Has this happened to anyone else? What could have happened? I'm now kind of afraid to swim again.

Thanks for any input on this.

October 15th, 2011, 03:59 PM
Did you go to the doctor, or ER? Sounds like you might have unknowingly inhaled a small bit of water into your lungs, as you said. Even a very small amount will seriously impact your breathing. You probably ought to get checked out, just to make sure you don't have a pulmonary embolus, a pneumothorax or develop pmeumonia. I would say this was rather unusual, especially if you don't remember anything specific prior to this incident that would have caused it. I repeat, go to the ER or your doctor TODAY.

October 15th, 2011, 04:55 PM
It may not even be swimming related. Perhaps you have something going on already that you aggravated by exercising. Coughing up blood is definitely a problem for the doctor. Not a normal swimming result I've heard of in all my years of being involved in swimming... I agree with Celestial.

October 15th, 2011, 06:15 PM
Thanks for your responses. I didn't go to the doctor or the ER because the next day my lungs sounded normal. In fact, I went to work on Friday.

The blood was just a little spec.. I think it was from coughing so hard.

This happened Thursday night, and it's now Saturday. My chest is still a little sore from coughing. I hate to go to the doctor when I really don't have symptoms anymore (other than soreness). Plus it's Saturday night, and my only option would be the ER.

I'm just trying to understand what happened.

I will say that prior to joining the Masters Team, I was swimming all summer... just straight slow laps for about an hour a day. I'm not used to sprints or drills, and I thought maybe it was the result of too much too soon.

October 15th, 2011, 06:53 PM
Please go to the doctor anyway.

October 16th, 2011, 05:56 PM
Thank you again for your replies. Yes, I will take your advice and go to the doctor tomorrow (Monday) and get a chest x-ray.

Although, I think now I suspect what may have happened. A good friend of mine is a nurse practitioner, and she says it sounds like exercise induced asthma.

I had been a serious athlete (in another sport) most of my life and trained hard, but never had this happen. But, now I'm wondering if it's being triggered by the chlorine in the indoor pool. I have been swimming recreational for all my life (just easy laps), but ONLY in an outdoor pool. This is my first time doing serious swimming indoors since being a teen.

I found this: "Swimmers (14%) not previously asthmatic displayed airway obstruction at baseline. Exercise-induced bronchospasm occurred in a further 11% of swimmers not known to have that problem or asthma. Swimmers known to have asthma seemed to do better than swimmers who had not previously been diagnosed with asthma. Exercise-induced bronchospasm negatively affected performance. It was concluded that swimming is worse with respect to bronchospasm than other endurance sports, a paradox since swimming is supposed to promote health. "


Again, I appreciate the replies, and I'll let you know what I find out. Hopefully, I can continue training.

October 16th, 2011, 07:24 PM
I have badly inhaled water during fly in workouts. It was unnerving and I wheezed for a few minutes, then all was fine and finished the workouts.

Go to the doctor.

October 17th, 2011, 09:07 PM
I went to the doctor today... had a chest x-ray, and it was normal.

My doctor thinks I inhaled water and my lungs are irritated from the chlorine, and yes, she agrees with all of you who told me I should have gone to the ER when it happened.

She doesn't think it's exercise induced asthma, because here it is, 4 days later, and I'm still coughing. She said it should have resolved itself within an hour or so Thursday night.

Anyway... she doesn't want me swimming for a few more weeks.. and I'm on a steroid inhaler for two weeks to get the lung swelling down.

I'm still not so sure it's from inhaling water, but I guess I'll never know. I wish I knew, because I'm kind of afraid to go back to practice.

October 18th, 2011, 05:50 PM
Glad you checked it out. After the swallowing water trick, I'll bet you don't do that again -----EVER!

October 18th, 2011, 08:01 PM
I guess you have figured out that if it happens again, get the MD or NP to listen to your breath sounds while the noise is happening. Let them know if you swim in an outdoor or indoor pool. Fresh air is usually better for exercise induced problems in swimming. Good luck.

October 18th, 2011, 10:07 PM
Thanks so much for your concern to everyone who was kind enough to answer my post. It's still all a mystery to me. I wish I knew conclusively what caused this. I honestly don't remember breathing in any water... although I know I do swallow some by accident every now and then.

The reason I posted here, was that I was hoping somebody recognized what happened to me and could tell me if it was exercise induced asthma or breathing water into my lungs. If I knew what it was, I could work to prevent it.
It's pretty scary when you exhale and your chest sounds like a coffee percolator!

Now, I'm in limbo land.. after an experience like that, I'm concerned about working out again. My doc wants me to take a few weeks off anyway.

October 19th, 2011, 01:14 PM
Edit: Sorry, didn't catch that you already mentioned SIPE.

May want to check out swimming-induced pulmonary edema.


(I'm not a doctor, but I've had these symptoms and checked it out)

October 19th, 2011, 03:55 PM
You might also consider Exercise Induced Paradoxical Vocal Chord Disorder. I have been suffering from this disorder for over a year and half with no cure in sight, although I do not cough. 3 to 15% of swimmers have this problem.

November 7th, 2011, 11:23 PM
Just wanted to update my thread. I haven't been in the water since I posted my initial question last month.

I did go to a pulmonary guy, and he highly suspects latent asthma... and is doing a thorough work-up including blood work, and pulmonary function tests.. plus an asthma challenge test.

I do have seasonal allergies, and do a lot of coughing during the change in seasons. Like clockwork, I get bronchitis every spring and fall. But I have never had a problem exercising... until that scary episode in October.

He also is sending me to a cardiologist for a stress test and echo just to rule out heart problems.

I'll be so glad once I find out what I'm dealing with. If it's asthma, I'll have some followup questions, as I can't wait to get back in the pool! I'm having chlorine withdrawals!!!:D