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How to deal with that congested feeling after swimming

Tried ear plugs, hay fever tablets and all other remedies, to no avail? Read on…

There are a couple of things to consider when answering this. Firstly, have you tried swimming in other pools or is this an issue everywhere you swim? And secondly, have you tried wearing a nose clip?

The main reason for nose and sinus congestion is a reaction to, or an irritation caused by, the chlorine in a pool’s bleaching system. If there is another local pool option for you, I’d suggest you try swimming there to see if things change. Otherwise, the alternative is to use a nose clip to minimise the chances of water and chlorine getting in your sinuses.

If you find that the congested feeling stops you from being able to sleep well afterwards, remember that while many people use exercise to improve their sleep habits it’s all a matter of timing, and, depending on when you exercise, there’s a chance it might have the reverse effect. 

Immediately following moderate exercise, you’re likely to feel very awake, so many people like early morning or afternoon workouts to invigorate them and help them feel more energetic as they go through a full day of work. On the flip side, this can be frustrating if you’re hoping to sleep shortly after finishing – late-night exercise is likely to leave you feeling wide awake, and so you’ll find it difficult to fall asleep.

The biggest change that you can make is to ensure you perform a decent cool-down at the end of your evening session in the pool. Slowing the heart rate back down will help calm your body a little before bed. 

Equally, when you get home from the pool, try and stay away from using a computer or any gadgets before you go to bed. The less you can do to awaken your brain, the more likely it is that you’ll fall into a restful sleep quickly.

(Image: Jonny Gawler)

For lots more swim advice head to our Training section


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Nicholas Charles

not only do i get congestion after swimming in the pool but also in open water. I had 3 days of it after Bala this year. Is my only option a nose clip?


This might be extreme but I used to suffer terribly with this too, pool and open water. For other reasons I had a food intolerance test done and found I was highly 'reactive' to dairy. Knocked dairy on the head and my main complaint has disappeared but I'm also sleeping better, snoring less and not getting bunged up from swimming. But a £3 nose clip is a cheaper and equally effective option!


I use a nose clip and still suffer. Resort to using my hayfever medication (Pirinase nasal spray works for me but needs planning to take 24 hours before swimming). Also use saline nasal spray post swim. Often have to resort to antihistamines too. I haven't yet tried the herbal oil based preventer sprays.

Suzanne Shain

I started using a nose plug for OW and have not had a problem since.  I don't need to use one in the pool.  It takes a little getting used to switching back and forth between using the plug and not using it, but so worth it.

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