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by Kelly O’Mara

December 31, 2019

The pool can sometimes leave you sneezing—here’s how to avoid post-pool congestion

If you find yourself with a runny nose after swimming, you’re not alone. One study found about 35 percent of swimmers reported temporary nasal congestion after swimming. The symptoms can start anywhere from immediately after getting out of the pool to a few hours later.

The bad news: If you’re highly sensitive, then swimming does appear to have a short-term negative effect and can create temporary sinusitis. The good news: The stuffy nose doesn’t seem to correlate with long-term problems on the whole, and there are some ways to help decrease the symptoms.

Why Do I Get a Runny Nose After Swimming?

There are different reasons you may spend hours after your swim workout stuffed up and blowing your nose.

For many swimmers, it’s simply a matter of water getting up in the nasal cavities and causing irritation. It sounds silly, but blowing air out of your nose when swimming can actually help keep too much water from getting in there.

It’s also possible your blocked nose after swimming is from allergies. Although many swimmers without allergies still experience a stuffed up or runny nose, it’s certainly a possibility you could be allergic to something in the pool water. For example, if you swim in an outdoor pool, then pollen that gathers on the surface of the water can cause allergies. Or perfumes and lotions from other swimmers can get into the water. There can also be bacteria in the water that causes irritation.

According to allergists, you can’t develop an allergy to chlorine itself, but you can develop chlorine sensitivity, especially after years of competitive swimming. That sensitivity can result in nasal congestion after swimming in chlorine pools. Chlorine can also cause inflammation in the lining of the sinuses, known as sinusitis. And there is some evidence it can be worse for some swimmers in certain warm and moist environments.

Irritation causes mucus to become thick and blocks your sinus, resulting in a stuffy nose.

Things That Help Nasal Congestion After Swimming

What works to relieve a blocked nose after swimming varies from athlete to athlete, because it depends on what exactly is causing the irritation to your sinuses. You may need to test a few techniques and see what works for your nasal congestion. If you develop an infection, however, or the sinusitis persists for days or weeks, then you should visit a doctor.

  • Nose clips: One way to stop a blocked nose after swimming is to simply block your nose while you’re swimming. Many swimmers find success with nose clips—either of the variety that has a strap around your head or the kind that clips onto your nose and stays there.
  • Nasal spray: Another option is to use a saline or nasal spray to clear out your nasal passages after you swim. Some swimmers find cleaning out their nasal passages of irritants helps with congestion.
  • Allergy meds: If you’re experiencing a runny nose after swimming because of potential allergies, then you might have some luck with an antihistamine or an allergy nasal spray after swimming.
  • Change pools: Before you cut down on your swimming, it’s also worth trying a different pool. If you’re sensitive to the chlorine, then a saline or bromine pool might relieve the symptoms. Additionally, good ventilation can help, and a different pool might have different temperature and ventilation systems. Some swimmers find relief with an outdoor pool as compared to an indoor one.

Looking for more great information about swimming? Check out our Swimming 101 guide featuring swimming pool and stroke basics, how to start swim training as an adult, and more.

Are you ready to take the next step in your swimming journey? Try a free workout with a Masters club this July as part of our Try Masters Swimming campaign.

All you need to do is fill out our trial membership form, find a participating club in your area, and pick a workout time to swim with the club. Come experience for yourself the amazing emotional, mental, and physical health benefits tens of thousands of adults just like you across the country are already enjoying.



  • Health and Nutrition


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