View Full Version : Swimming and running noses.

November 17th, 2004, 12:30 PM
I swam regularly (3-4 x/week) for approximately 5 years and had laid off for the past 7 months. Thankfully I'm back in the pool again. I am relatively healthy and have missed almost no work. However, whenever I get out of the pool I have cold symptoms--congestion, running nose, sneezing, etc. I know I probably swallow my share of water, and I've learned to live with these nuisances, but are these symptoms common for others?

November 17th, 2004, 01:46 PM
I also swim 3-4X a week and do not swallow much water at all-yet I have all the symptoms that you have after I swim. Like your question-I have wondered the same.

November 17th, 2004, 07:08 PM
I too had the same symptoms. Gradually increased from sneezing after a workout, to a running nose, to a hosing nose and more sneezing. And then to a Sinus infection. Which progressed into not knowing when one started and one finished.
I did notice in workout that those 'sinus washouts' you get when doing double arm back, fly or flip turns severly irritated my mucus membranes in my poor nose.
When the doctor threatened me with a surgical sinus washout, I said "Give me another month". (I avoid surgery where possible).
I went out and bought a nose plug. At first I thought I was going to suffocate. But be strong. Don't take it off at all for the first 2 weeks. even to talk to lane mates!!
Once you learn to breath in and out of your mouth, you will be delighted with the results. No more sneezing, runny noses, sinus infections.
I think I developed an allergy or sensitivity to chlorine.
I am able to swim in the open water without a nose plug. I feel like I have so much more air to breathe, (a nose plug is a bit like altitude training!! you will adapt). Although in the open water I still get a bit of a runny nose, I don't suffer from the sneezing or sinus infections. And the bonus for not wearing it in the open water is that weeds don't hook onto it, and stick to the side of your face thereby directing water into your mouth when you breathe. (This can happen in the pool where a hair will attach. It is gross, but you learn to be excellent at pulling them off with an underwater stroke!)
Good Luck.

November 18th, 2004, 11:29 AM
This is outstanding advice. The flip turn theory makes a lot of sense. I woke up last night with terrible congestion and decided I don't care what I look like, Friday morning I'm trying the nose plug. The cold symptoms still haven't subsided since Wednesday's swim and I enjoy swimming too much to be hampered by a runny (not running as posted) nose and congestion.

I'll keep you posted.

Phil Arcuni
November 18th, 2004, 03:31 PM
I always strongly support use of a nose plug whenever this issue comes up. It worked for me and is simple and cheap. 2go+h20 (difficult to type a zero there) is absolutely right about this fix.

What kind of nose plug catches seawead?

I don't get the lack of air complaint, however. Who breathes in through their nose when they swim? It doesn't seem possible to me.

November 18th, 2004, 03:48 PM
Chlorine is known to exacerbate allergy symptoms. It certainly does for me. But I'm on allergy meds, so I keep it under pretty good control.

November 18th, 2004, 04:09 PM
I don't think anyone inhales through their nose under water (not more than once anyway), but a lot of times I exhale through my nose under water.

I find that when I'm tasked with having to swim a length under water that I take a deep breath and slowly exhale as I progress. (That is if I don't pop out of the water at about the 18th yard with a panic attack).

Friday a.m. will be the test on the plug. It's a relatively shallow community center pool so if I have a panic attack because my nose is plugged I can always stand up.

November 19th, 2004, 09:50 AM
Two Oscos, a Walgreens and a Sportmart. No nose plugs. I'll check Keifer today. Another day with the swim-induced cold.

I noticed a thread about swimming in the north. You know you're a swimming in the north when stores clear off all their pool stuff on the the same day the town closes all the public pool--Labor Day.

November 19th, 2004, 12:00 PM
Every january, I buy 12 nose plugs from Keifer. I get so many because of the bulk discont. Everyone that I have talked with about the problem all believe that it is because my flip turns are not fast enough. As I tuck my head, I don't go quickly enough. that cause a difference in pressure & water automatically rushes into my nose. I don't even feel it. The plugs really help. Also, asthmatics tend to have more problems than do nonasmathics. don't know why.

Another reason that water might flow into the nose is due to head position. If you hold your head up and not straight forward, water will run into your nose. Try to keep your neck straight & push with the top of your head.
Also, I have talked with several allergist. They have all told me that chlorine is not an allergian. It is an irritant, like aspirin. I'm not sure what that means, exactly. It has something to do with the production of IgE(?).

November 19th, 2004, 12:10 PM
It would seem that nose plugs are an excellent short term solution. Long term you might want to consider working seriously on your flip turn because doing all mouth breathing doesn't seem to be the best route to better swimming.

However, one of the best swimmers I know wears a plug all the time so I guess to each his own.

November 19th, 2004, 12:18 PM
I'm not sure if I'm executing my turns fast enough, but I am exhaling in them. Even if I learned a faster method I'd naturally slow down at turn 10 in my 300s.

I learned right away that body type, weight, etc. don't really matter. I've seen heavy guys outswim rails and even I have out swum/swam bulked up guys. So I'll try the plugs and see if there are real differences.

So for all those plug wearers: do all the other kids make fun of you because of the nose plugs?

November 19th, 2004, 12:50 PM
I don't know of any ridiculing for wearing a nose plug. Considering that we wear Speedos as adults and many of us shave for meets, the good natured ribbing I take from my pals about that probably has insulated me from any other types of insults.

November 19th, 2004, 01:59 PM
If I was actually worried about how I looked (with nose plugs or just in general), I'd never leave the house. Besides, is there anything more satisfying than passing someone on a Trek 2100 when you've got a $400-$500 bike?

Phil Arcuni
November 19th, 2004, 08:41 PM
There is absolutely no purpose for a nose while swimming. It is ineffective to take air in, and unnecessary to let air out -- the only reason to blow air out of it is to prevent water from coming in.

I actually tried to breath in through my nose while swimming freestyle today. The only way to get air in was to limit what I breathed through my mouth, which is not the purpose. Also, I sprayed my sinuses with chlorinated water and sneezed for half a day.

The nose is bad for swimming. It is the reason for the start of this thread, and it prevents goggles from fitting (I know, I have a big nose.) If I did not have a nose I could back dolphin farther from the wall and goggles would be cheaper.

There is *no* downside to wearing a nose plug. The best 55+ backstroker in the world wears a nose plug when he races. You can too.

Phil Arcuni
November 19th, 2004, 08:43 PM
You don't need to be a bad flipper to have sneezing/running noses. Some pools are worse than others, indoor pools are particularly bad. I only swim in outdoor pools now, and don't have a problem, while when I swam indoors at one particular pool, I did.

November 20th, 2004, 01:43 AM
About a year after returning to swimming I started suffering severe post swim sinus problems. The sneezing, runny nose and resulting headaches almost drove me away from swimming. I'm a pretty good swimmer and don't usually get the head slamming rush of water up the nose when I flip. I tried a nose plug, but found it distracting and it was hard to keep it to stay on.

Suspecting it might be an alergy to the pool chemicals, I took one of my wife's Allegra 180s before I swam. A miracle. I had absolutely no post swim sinus. My choice...either I stop swimming or I continue to swim and take an Allegra. I take an Allegra now before I swim.

November 20th, 2004, 06:09 AM
I also for years suffered from blocked/runny nose after swimming (particularly from indoor pool with high usage) which I attributed to an allergic-like reaction to pool chemicals. It could be misery, interrupting sleep, waking up with dry mouth etc. I used to resort to allergy medication, which worked OK but sometimes had undesirable side effects (eg loss of sleep). I now use a nose clip - it took two weeks to get used to - problem now solved!

November 20th, 2004, 01:03 PM
The antiallergy meds probably did not "change" much. what happened is that you stopped producing the mucous but you are still having the reaction. Irratants can't be gotten rid of no matter what. In all likelihood the mdes might relax you a bit and slow you down some. I've never taken Allegra, so I'm not sure.

November 21st, 2004, 02:15 AM

I'll be the first to admit I don't understand the medical nuance of what Allegra is doing for me. I do know it stopped the sinus complications which improved my overall physical health or "feeling" tremendously. I have no sense of lethargy or malaise when I take this medicine. It has had no impact on my swimming conditioning with respect to times...in fact I would argue that my lack of sinus complications has brought me far more energy. Just my experience.

November 21st, 2004, 01:29 PM
I started wearing a nose plug on backstroke so I could underwater dolphin longer and hold my air in longer, it did take a while to get used to it but I immediately noticed the added benefit of not having sinus symptoms after each practice. Now I wear my nose plug pretty much all the time including in competition. Works for me. I see people at meets with the breathing strips across their noses and have to laugh, I guess those people want more water up there! To each his own.
And Heydavis/Steve I hope you went and got your own Allegra prescription, if you continue to share she will run out too soon and they won't refill it for her when she needs it. Besides you shouldn't share prescriptions.

Phil Arcuni
November 21st, 2004, 02:49 PM
We should all understand what is happening. The same water that causes our body hair to dissolve, dry our skin, and make itchy skin is getting into contact with sensitive internal skin/nasal structures. The body responds, very reasonably, with sneezing to expel the irritant and mucus to wash it away and further protect the nose/sinuses.

You may take medication to reduce the body's natural response to this irritant, but as Craig points out, the irritant is still there, and it is still doing the nasty stuff, now against a body with even less protection than it had before. While the symptoms are gone, the fundamental problem is still there. This water is not some normally harmless pollen that the body has mistakenly decided is an antigenic threat, but a real threat.

Is that what you want? A lifetime of experimentation to see what happens to a nose constantly attacked and irritated? While I think Masters Swimming is a great and new experiment in very active senior lifestyle, this is one aspect of the experiment I think we can all do without.

November 21st, 2004, 11:14 PM

I got my own prescription. :)

November 21st, 2004, 11:42 PM
Good! Been there and done that, when "we" ran out it wasn't pretty . . .:D

November 22nd, 2004, 02:17 PM
Originally posted by craiglll@yahoo.com
The antiallergy meds probably did not "change" much. what happened is that you stopped producing the mucous but you are still having the reaction. Irratants can't be gotten rid of no matter what. In all likelihood the mdes might relax you a bit and slow you down some. I've never taken Allegra, so I'm not sure.

Allegra is an antihistamine. (And clarinex and claritin and lots of other prescription or OTC allergy drugs.) Histamines produce fluid (in the form of mucus or swelling depending on the irritant and location affected.) When related to the mucous membranes, the histamine activity results in mucus. Our bodies do that when the mucous memberanes are irritated by dust, pollen, pet dander, or other irritants. For some people, chlorine is such an irritant. Antihistamines suppress the production of histamine-induced mucus.

I take clarinex for chronic allergies. (I have no doubts that chlorine contributes to that.) When I miss a day of clarinex, I get horrible congestion and nose-running after swimming. With clarinex, it is very adequately controlled.

November 22nd, 2004, 09:12 PM
Originally posted by Guvnah

I take clarinex for chronic allergies. (I have no doubts that chlorine contributes to that.) When I miss a day of clarinex, I get horrible congestion and nose-running after swimming. With clarinex, it is very adequately controlled.

You want to see horrible allergies? Take me off my Advair, Flonase, Zyrtec and Singulair. That's a friggin' mess right there! I got allergy tested over the summer and wasn't allowed any allergy meds for 3 days before my appt. I needed 2 nebulizer treatments before they could even do the scratch test.
Allergies are miserable. I also get the runny nose when I swim, but I haven't figured out why. Maybe because I take my meds and swim within an hour of each other.

November 23rd, 2004, 04:41 PM
The comments in this thread are also familiar to me. I have been swimming at the same pool for a couple of years on on the last six occassions I have had really bad congestion during the night following my swim. I suspect the pool has changed its chemicals or I have developed an allergy. I plan to change pools this weekend and see if the problem recurs.

November 29th, 2004, 04:59 PM
I feel so much better about wearing a nose plug after reading these posts! I've never been able to swim without one and had posted a worried thread about it...but now I'm not going to worry about it. I took my fill of ridicule when I was a kid about my nose plug - until whomever was harassing me saw me swim; I was quite a fish.

I'm prone to sinus infections and other nasty stuff. So if I'm sparing myself, I'm glad to continue.


December 3rd, 2004, 12:32 PM
I appreciate all the input on the runny (not running) nose issue. I started using a nose plug a few weeks ago and it really seems to cut down on the irritation. The breathing is taking a little getting used to (especially toward the end of the work outs) but not having to wipe my nose all day after a swim is a nice trade off.

Thanks again. Time to post my next ailment.