Most swimmers are all too aware that their passion for the water can present certain self-care challenges, such as dry skin, dry hair, smelling like chlorine, and so on. Some experience a runny, stuffy, or irritated nose after swimming, or even inflammation of the lining of the sinuses (sinusitis); one study found that these problems affect 35 percent of swimmers.
Typically, these symptoms set in anywhere from immediately getting out of the water to a few hours after. Luckily, they’re usually short-lived, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying, and they can sometimes persist for hours to about a day.
If you find that you get a runny, stuffy, or irritated nose after swimming, here’s some information to help you understand the likely causes and what you can do to help prevent or treat it.
Causes of a Runny, Stuffy, or Irritated Nose After Swimming
There are a few reasons most people encounter these effects from being in the water:
- Often, it’s just a reaction to irritation caused by the water, chlorine, and/or other chemicals or compounds in the water flowing up into your nose and nasal cavity; they can all be irritating and drying
- Some people have a sensitivity to chlorine, which can get worse over time with more exposure
- You may be allergic to pollen, ingredients in sunblock or perfume, or other stuff that gets in the water
Preventing and Treating Nasal Irritation from Swimming
Here are some steps that help you avoid, minimize, or remedy the problem when you get a runny, stuffy, or irritated nose after swimming:
- Wear nose clips (some people prefer the type that just clips onto the nose, while others prefer the the type that wraps around your head; try both to see which you’re more comfortable with)
- When you’re done swimming, flush out your nasal passage with a saline spray or nasal spray, which removes chlorine and other irritants that worked their way up there
- If you suspect your problems are allergic, take an antihistamine or use an allergy nasal spray after you get out of the water; don’t take an antihistamine before your swim, though, as it will make you drowsy
- Put a small dab of petroleum jelly at the base of your nostrils if you get dried out right inside your nose
- Switch pools if you’re having real problems and are considering reducing your swimming, as this may let you keep enjoying the water; changing from a chlorine pool to a bromine or saline pool may help, as might switching from an indoor to outdoor pool or vice versa