Many people think that sinus issues are medical conditions that are caused by an outdoor allergy or the result of the changing climate as winter approaches. However, as the dog days of summer set in, many people head out to the beach, pool, or local swimming hole to find relief from what can often be oppressive heat.
Unfortunately, this summertime cool-down favorite can cause nasal congestion and swimmers’ sinusitis, an inflammatory condition that includes these symptoms:
- Nasal Congestion
- Facial Pain
- Facial Pressure in the forehead, eyes, and temples
- Sneezing or a runny nose
- The loss of the sense of smell
- If you experience problems after enjoying a dip in a lake or ocean, it may be from water infiltrating the nose and nasal passages, resulting in inflammation and, potentially, an infection.
- If you are swimming in a pool and experience nasal congestion, you may have a sensitivity to the chemicals required to maintain clean pool water. It is also essential to learn how to treat swimmers sinusitis, should this condition occur.
Ultimately, sinusitis can disrupt one’s daily life and healthy sleep habits, so it is important to be mindful of how you feel after swimming in a lake/ocean or a chlorinated swimming pool.
Important Tips to Avoid Swimmer’s Sinusitis
To help reduce the discomfort of nasal congestion from swimming, it is imperative to breathe properly while in the water. To keep water from getting in your nose while swimming, try to continuously exhale through your nose when underwater. The air pressure created when exhaling prevents any water from entering your nose.
The inhaled breath is quick and should be between strokes. And while this may feel a bit odd at first, with a little practice, this type of breathing technique becomes second nature and helpful in avoiding swimmer’s sinusitis.
The chemicals that are used to clean and sanitize pool water generally include chlorine and bromine, members of the Halogen chemical family. Chlorine, which is mostly used in public swimming pools, is the least costly and the best sanitizing chemical that tolerates sunlight. Bromine, which sunlight compromises easily, is typically used in spas and hot tubs. Bromine does not have a chemical smell (like chlorine) – which is often the chemical irritant that causes nasal congestion.
But note that both chemicals can be absorbed through the swimmer’s skin and ultimately cause your skin to react or even cause a respiratory issue. Showering after swimming can help alleviate some of these potential reactions.
Water that is inadvertently inhaled into sinus cavities can result in an infection or irritation like swimmers’ sinusitis. Nasal congestion is usually the first symptom of sinusitis. But note that this type of sinus infection typically happens in a lake or an ocean, where there are living organisms, and the water is never sanitized.
If nasal congestion is accompanied by other symptoms like fever or body aches, it is essential to see your healthcare provider.
If you are prone to sinusitis, it doesn’t mean that you must avoid swimming. You just have to be smart and take precautions –
- Use earplugs and a nose clip to prevent water from entering the nasal and ear canals.
- Don’t swim right after a pool has undergone chlorine treatment because this is when the water’s chlorine level will be at its maximum.
- After swimming –
- Flush out residual chlorine with a sterile saline solution and a neti pot.
- Immediate shower.
To reduce congestion, saline is often helpful, as are oral decongestants or antihistamines.