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Steps to Prevent a Runny Nose After Swimming

Catching a runny nose after swimming is a common problem. Although it is typically not a serious threat to one’s health, it can be quite annoying especially when dripping and sneezing continue for days and weeks. Any person who dips in a pool is susceptible to catching a runny nose. Indeed, children and adults alike would benefit from learning steps on preventing a runny nose after swimming.

What’s the connection between swimming and a runny nose?

The human nose is lined with delicate mucous membranes that are highly sensitive to irritants, viruses, and bacteria. Such irritants, which cause irritation and inflammation, are mostly from pool chemicals (ie. chlorine) and dirt. When water enters the nasal passageways, the nasal tissues flare up and produce excessive nasal discharge – this occurrence is commonly known as a runny nose.

Swimmers who have not yet perfected the correct breathing techniques are prone to getting water into their nasal passageways. In addition, people who spend a lot of time in the water catch a runny nose more frequently than others. Those who have allergies and/or are sensitive to chlorine may catch the runny-nose problem much quicker and may have to deal with it much longer than those without. Normally, a runny nose would last for 12 to 24 hours after swimming; but for some it would extend for over 3 to 7 days whilst developing nasal congestion or acute sinusitis.

Steps to prevent a runny nose after swimming:

Saline nasal spray

If you have a history of allergies, asthma, and other nasal problems like polyps or deviated septum, you may use a saline nasal spray after swimming. This helps in cleaning out your nasal passageways and reduce discharge. According to Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the saline nasal spray should only be used for a few days to avoid congestion. To ensure safety, it is best to speak with your doctor for their professional recommendation.


Swimmers who struggle with allergies can take antihistamines half an hour before getting in the pool.

Nose clips

Nose clips are commonly used by synchronised swimmers to avoid water inhaling water. Breathing, then, would be conducted only through the mouth. This keeps the nose shut from possible water entry and its accompanying irritants.

Exhale through your nose

Not a lot of people are fond of nose clips, however. If you find nose clips uncomfortable, you may train yourself to exhale through the nose (instead of the mouth) when swimming. The air pressure brought about by exhaling through the nose prevents water accumulation in the passageways. To do this, exhale slowly through the nose in between strokes.

Shower after swimming

Pool chemicals like chlorine and bromine tend to stick to the skin. Such chemicals not only irritate the nose, but those also irritate the skin and cause complications like dryness (ie. rosacea). It is therefore crucial to shower off the chemicals after swimming.

Good ventilation for indoor pools

If you swim in an indoor pool, make sure that it has a good ventilation system. Pools with good ventilation help reduce the effects of chemical vapours caused by chlorine and other water sanitisers.

Swimming goggles

The nose and the eyes are connected through the tear ducts. Use swimming goggles to avoid eye irritation, which may affect the nose as well.

NOTE: Avoid swimming with a runny nose!

When you have bad nasal discharge, it is best to rest at home for two reasons:

First, you wouldn’t want to infect another kid (or adult) in the pool. Although chlorine is supposed to kill bacteria, it is not always enough to avoid the spread of waterborne diseases. Prevention is always key to safety. Keeping yourself away from the water due to a runny nose will keep many others from getting sick.

Second, you wouldn’t want to feel worse while swimming. If you have a cold that’s bordering to a fever, you would feel colder than usual. Consequently, the pool would feel more chilly than it actually it. Swimming during this state can raise your fever higher and prolonged bed rest may be required.


Catching a runny nose is a common problem after swimming. Though it is not immediately a serious threat, it can cause a lot of discomfort. A runny nose can easily be prevented through a number of steps such as the use of antihistamines, nasal sprays, nose clips, and a number of practices such as showering after swimming. Moreover, it is best to keep away from the pool during bad nasal discharge in order to avoid the spread of waterborne illnesses, as well as the worsening of one’s own condition.

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