Why Does Water Go Up My Nose When I Swim

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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For people learning to swim for the first time, the idea of putting your head underwater where you can’t breathe like you normally do is concerning, to say the least. Add the fact that water can get up the nose from improper technique, and beginners can quickly become panicked.

With a little bit of practice, water up the nose soon becomes an issue of the past. The most common reason why swimmers get water up the nose is that they try to breathe in through the nose when they should be breathing in through the mouth.

Continue reading to learn more about why water goes up the nose for some swimmers, how to prevent water from going up the nose, as well as the dangers of getting water in your nasal passages.

woman swimming with her mouth open - Why Does Water Go Up My Nose When I Swim

Why Does Water Go Up My Nose When You Swim?

It’s possible to get water up your nose when you swim for any number of reasons, but the most common cause is improper swimming or breathing technique. This could involve:


  • Lifting or keeping your head out of the water
  • Breathing through the nose when breathing should be done through the mouth
  • Not exhaling before taking a quick breath


People who are afraid of the water or are novice swimmers tend to favor breaststroke or try to keep their heads out of the water in other swimming styles. Unfortunately, this ruins your streamlined profile in the water and causes your legs to sink, making it harder to swim.

When you struggle to swim, the rest of your technique can slip, and you tend to splash more. This sends water into the air around your head, which can consequently be breathed in through the nose.

woman swimming with her mouth open - Why Does Water Go Up My Nose When I Swim


How Can You Stop Water Going Up Your Nose When You’re Swimming?

The best short-term solution to preventing water from going up the nose while swimming is a nose plug specifically designed for swimmers.

A properly fitted nose plug will physically prevent water from entering the nostrils but also restricts your ability to exhale while swimming.

Something else that many casual swimmers don’t do is exhale slowly while the head is submerged. Not only does this help prevent water from going up the nose, but it is also better for your cardiovascular system by removing undue strain from holding your breath.


Is it Dangerous When Water Goes Up Your Nose While You’re Swimming?

There is nothing inherently dangerous about just water going up the nose, but it usually isn’t just water. Depending on the body of water you are swimming in, you have chemicals and microorganisms going up your nose as well.

Naegleria fowleri, better known as “the brain-eating amoeba,” is one such microorganism that exists in warm bodies of freshwater like lakes and rivers.

If you were to swallow a bunch of lake water containing Naegleria fowleri, nothing much may happen, but getting it up your nose can be fatal in as little as 18 days.

There is no known cure for the amoeba eating your brain (amebic meningoencephalitis is the technical term), but a foolproof way of keeping yourself safe is to simply avoid swimming and other water sports in any freshwater sources that are warm or hot.


What Should You Do If Water Keeps Entering Your Nose?

Learning the proper way to breathe while swimming is essential to swimming more comfortably and confidently.

Swim instructors typically recommend using “bobs” – a technique where you gently raise and lower the face into and out of the water while consciously and deliberately breathing at a set, rhythmic intervals.

If you are still experiencing water entering the nose, there may be an issue with your sinuses, soft palate, or another part of the gastroesophageal system. Visiting a doctor for further advice and solutions may be your only solution in such cases.


Are There Any Gadgets That Stop the Water?

There are a variety of products on the market, all of which are designed to prevent water from going up the nose while you’re swimming.

The vast majority of them are either a type of clip placed over the bridge of the nose that compresses the nostrils until they close or a plug of some sort that is inserted into each nostril to block water’s access to the nose.

They aren’t 100 percent foolproof. However, they can come loose as you swim or for water at high enough pressure, or force can still make its way into the nose (during diving, for example).

Nose plugs like these are also only recommended until you are confident in your swimming and breathing techniques since they can irritate the nose and restrict you from further improving your swimming.


Final Thoughts on Water Going Up Your Nose While Swimming

Getting water up the nose can be an unpleasant experience for anyone but is a problem disproportionately felt by new swimmers that have yet to learn how to control their breathing while they swim.

While the burning, stinging sensation is usually over quickly, other sinister problems can occur thanks to microorganisms like Naegleria fowleri.

Thankfully, there are systems in place to help beginners prevent water from going up the nose, and some gadgets can assist during the learning process.