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Getting water up my nose whilst swimming (inability to "shut my no...
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Getting water up my nose whilst swimming (inability to "shut my nose off")

I cannot swim with my head in the water without getting water up my nose, from where it goes down my throat and chokes me. This isn't just a trickle, the water floods in. For instance, this occurs during a standard front crawl. My technique is good and I am a competant swimmer. Even exhaling through my nose doesn't seem to prevent the problem, unless I blow unrealistically hard out through my nose, which empties my full lungs so fast it is impractical for swimming. I have always had to use a nose clip to stop water going up my nose. The problem with the nose clip is that it never seals completely and hurts my nose during and after swimming. I have tried every type of nose clip that I can find, but I usually end up with a hurting nose and water in my nose and throat, which causes a running nose and a sore throat after swimming.

I have spoken about this problem to many of my friends and family, and about 90% of them say this isn't an issue for them, and they either don't get water up their nose at all, or gently exhaling through their nose prevents water entering. The former group of people say that they can 'shut off' their nose, even on dry land, so that they can't breath through it or get water up it. They've demonstrated this to me and they can indeed 'shut off' their nose. I can't do this. The remaining 10% of people that I've spoken to have exactly the same problem as me. Unlike me, they've given up with swimming properly and just swim with their heads out of the water. However, I am a very keen swimmer, and this problem is preventing me from persuing my favourite sport, and is also very restricting with other watersports. I have a problem with my back, and swimming helps it greatly, but I do need to swim properly with a flat back, as a head-up style gives me quite bad back pain.

I would like to know what anatomical issues are at play here to cause this problem with myself and 10% of my friends, but not with most people. I would also like to know if there is anything I can do to prevent this happening.
Tags: swimming, head
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10 Comments Post a Comment
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Avatar_n_tn
Wow, count me in the 90% of people who don't have the problem.  I had that problem when I BEGAN swimming five years ago, but within a few weeks of attempts I finally learned how to exhale out my nose in the water (I couldn't do it AT ALL because I would shut off my nose completely.  I finally learned how to combine shutting off the nose at particular moments and turning it "on" at the appropriate moment of exhale.)

You say you have proper position technique?  Are you SURE?  Because even a slightly over-elevated head would create a pull of water into the nose.  I DO still get water in my nose if I'm underwater and swimming straight upward.  I also cannot do flip turns (yet!) because I cannot seem to shut off my nose against such a powerful force of water when in a completely vertical position head down into the turn.  But when I'm perfectly horizontal to the surface of the water, I do fine and rarely, if ever, take in even a drop in my nose.

I'd say focus a little more clearly on exactly how your head is positioned in the water.  Hope that helps.  
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Avatar_n_tn
Sorry, I should have said: this occurs if I just slowly lower my head into the water whilst stationary. Exhaling does no good at all, unless it's really forceful, which just empties my lungs in a few seconds.
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Avatar_n_tn
Take a look at this site
http://www.harmonicasessions.com/jun05/nose.html
about learning to control the soft palate in the back of your throat
to block off airflow through your nose.  The context of the above
site is a harmonica player talking about the importance of not
wasting air letting it go through your nose while playing.  But
his descriptions and exercises seemed good.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi there
I'm in the 10%. I can put a hell of a lot of pressure shutting off my nose using that soft palatte thing but water still comes in - only a little, but too much for me to cope with. Even if a little bit of water gets in my nose as I gently lower my head under water I feel it immediately hurting my sinuses and going down my throat.

I have also tried slowly breathing out but water still comes in (as I said, just a bit - but that's too much) - only when I breath through my nose very hard can I be comfortable under water - and as the above person said, that technique is useless if you want to get the most out of your swim.
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Avatar_n_tn
People are convinced that everyone who has a hard time blocking their nose when in water is just doing it wrong.

I too have the same problem. And I know I'm not doing anything wrong because in my case, i have a problem with only one nostril. I can effectively shut my right nostril by blowing a little air out when i go underwater. But the left nostril is always wide open and I seem not to have any control over it.

In fact, I've tested this. I held my left nostril shut with one hand while the right nostril was open. And I went about 3 feet underwater, and no problem. I tried the same with my left nostril, and I came back up coughing out water before i was even 1 foot underwater (tried this numerous times). In fact, I can tell I have a problem with my nostrils when out of water too.

I've been trying to resolve this lack of control of my left nostril for quiet some time, but to no avail. Maybe it's because the left nostril is always a little stuffy..  
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Avatar_f_tn
This may be due to a deviated septum, where the septum bends to one side, closing or almost closing a nostril. This will allow water to easily flow into the nose but not out. I have the same problem during diving practice and hours later the water will drip out of my left nostril.
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Avatar_n_tn
Here is an interesting article that explain the problems quite well.
http://blog.swimator.com/2011/04/getting-water-up-my-nose-while-swimming.html
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Avatar_m_tn
It boils down to these 2 things:

1) Prevent water flowing from nose --> mouth/airway
- You do this by applying the palate trick (see Swimator's link in the previous post). It is based on normal human anatomy and should work for anyone.
- At the same time it forms the 'ceiling' for a bubble of air in your nose (see 2)

2) Prevent water filling your nose
- There's no longer a connection between nose and mouth, but water can still fill youre nose. Usually there is a bit of air left in your nose when you go in.
- Air always goes up. If youre in the water, face down, parallel to the floor, the remaining air will stay in your nose because in this position, up = going in your nose.
- Youre palate stops the air from disappearing in your mouth.
- So your nose is filled with air that leaves no room for water. Comparable to a diving bell.

BUT
When you change the angle of your head, which is necessary if you want to dive, your nose is no longer above the air bubble that's in it. Your nose is actually to the side, so the air bubble will still go up, but this time it escapes and your nose will fill with water again.
I personally haven't figured out how to tackle this problem yet. Anyone?
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Avatar_f_tn
I have this prob too, my ears also fill with water, my mum and her mum have the same problems too. I always wonder why this happens.
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Avatar_m_tn
Can't get to the link you mentioned
http://www.harmonicasessions.com/jun05/nose.html
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