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February 25, 2019
James Setton

Taking the Plunge Safely: Tips for Staying Healthy in the Water

Article Revised on April 26, 2024

Swimming is a fantastic way to stay cool, exercise, and have fun. However, spending time in pools, lakes, or oceans can sometimes lead to unexpected health issues. While the water may look inviting, it can harbor germs, chemicals, and other irritants that can make you feel less than your best.

This article explores various health problems you might encounter after swimming and provides essential tips to prevent them.

Cold and flu symptoms and prevention. Signs, symptoms, and treatment

Types of Health Issues After Swimming

A dip in the water can sometimes lead to various unpleasant symptoms, impacting different parts of your body. Here’s a breakdown of some common post-swimming health concerns:

Flu-Like Symptoms After Swimming

Have you ever experienced a fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle aches after a swim? This could be a sign of exposure to recreational water illnesses (RWIs). These are caused by germs like bacteria, viruses, or parasites that thrive in contaminated water.  Improper pool chlorination, inadequate hygiene practices, or swallowing contaminated water can contribute to RWIs.

Cold-Like Symptoms After Swimming

If you experience a runny nose, sneezing, and congestion after swimming, it could be due to exposure to irritants in pool chemicals, especially chlorine. Swimming in cold water can constrict blood vessels in the nose, leading to a temporary increase in mucus production and cold-like symptoms.

Stomach Issues After Swimming

Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are unpleasant consequences of ingesting contaminated water. Swallowing even a small amount of water with germs like E. coli or Giardia can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Headache and Dizziness After Swimming

Dehydration is a common culprit for headaches and dizziness after swimming. Especially in hot weather, exertion can deplete your body fluids, leading to lightheadedness. Additionally, chlorine exposure can trigger headaches in some individuals.

Respiratory Issues After Swimming

Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath can be caused by chlorine exposure, particularly in indoor pools with poor ventilation.  Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma might be more susceptible.

Skin Irritations After Swimming

Skin rashes, itching, and irritation are common after spending time in chlorinated water. Chlorine can dry out the skin and disrupt its natural balance, leading to discomfort. Sensitive individuals might experience a reaction to other pool chemicals or irritants present in natural bodies of water.

Chlorine Poisoning Symptoms

In rare cases, excessive exposure to chlorine gas can lead to chlorine poisoning. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and irritation of the eyes, skin, and throat. This typically occurs with prolonged exposure in poorly ventilated indoor pools with high chlorine levels.

Ear Infections After Swimming

Swimmer’s ear is a common infection of the outer ear canal caused by trapped water. Bacteria can thrive in a moist environment, leading to inflammation, pain, and discomfort.

Eye Irritations After Swimming

Redness, itching, and burning sensations in the eyes are frequently experienced after swimming in chlorinated water. Although they are typically short-lived, these symptoms can be uncomfortable.

Other Common Issues

Fatigue, dehydration, and heat-related illnesses like heat stroke can also occur after swimming, especially in hot weather or during intense physical activity.

Preventive Measures: Keeping Your Dip Delightful

By taking some simple precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk of encountering health problems after swimming:

Shower Before and After Swimming

Take a quick shower to remove dirt, sweat, and any lingering body products before entering the water. Rinse off thoroughly again after swimming to remove chlorine or other chemicals.

Don’t Swallow the Water

While easier said than done, avoid swallowing pool water as much as possible. Teach children the importance of keeping their heads above water.

Maintain Proper Hygiene Practices

Encourage frequent handwashing, especially before eating or touching your face. Avoid sharing towels and always use fresh ones.

Take Breaks and Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after swimming, especially in hot weather. To prevent being too hot or dehydrated, take short rests in the shade.

Use Proper Gear

Consider wearing a swim cap to protect your hair from chlorine and a nose plug to prevent water from entering your nasal passages. Goggles can shield your eyes from irritation.

Choose Your Swimming Spot Wisely

Opt for well-maintained pools with proper chlorine levels. Avoid swimming in murky or stagnant water in natural bodies of water.

Listen to Your Body

If you experience any discomfort, such as persistent coughing, burning eyes, or severe skin irritation, get out of the water and consult a doctor if necessary.Treatment Options

For most minor post-swimming issues, home remedies can provide relief.  Here are some examples:

Flu-Like Symptoms and Cold-Like Symptoms

Get plenty of rest, drink fluids to stay hydrated, and consider over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever and aches.Seek medical attention if symptoms intensify or last longer than a few days.

Stomach Issues

For mild diarrhea, focus on rehydration with clear liquids and bland foods like crackers or toast. Consider over-the-counter medications like loperamide to manage symptoms. If symptoms are severe, bloody, or accompanied by fever, seek medical attention to rule out a more serious infection.

Headache and Dizziness

Rehydrate with water or electrolyte-rich beverages. Lie down in a cool, dark room and apply a cool compress to your forehead. If the headache persists or worsens, consult a doctor.

Respiratory Issues

If you experience mild coughing or wheezing, take breaks from swimming and breathe fresh air. Inhalers prescribed for pre-existing respiratory conditions can help manage symptoms. If coughing is severe or accompanied by difficulty breathing, consult a doctor immediately.

Skin Irritations

After swimming, rinse with clean water and pat your skin dry. Apply a gentle moisturizer to soothe irritation.  Calamine lotion or aloe vera gel can provide additional relief for itching. Refrain from scratching, as this may increase the rash. If the rash is severe, persistent, or accompanied by blisters, consult a doctor.

Ear Infections (Swimmer’s Ear)

Over-the-counter ear drops containing an antibiotic or antiseptic can help treat mild swimmer’s ear. Apply warm compresses to the affected ear for pain relief. Avoid using cotton swabs in your ears, as this can push debris further into the ear canal. If symptoms worsen or persist for more than a few days, consult a doctor.

Eye Irritations

Rinse your eyes thoroughly with clean, lukewarm water for several minutes. Artificial tears can help soothe irritation and dryness. Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can worsen discomfort. If eye irritation persists, consult a doctor.

Remember: When in doubt, always err on the side of caution. If you experience any concerning symptoms after swimming, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Taking a Safe and Healthy Plunge

You can reduce your risk of unpleasant post-swimming problems by being aware of the possible health dangers of swimming and taking these preventive steps. Remember, a little preparation and awareness can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience in the water. So, take the plunge, have fun, and stay healthy!

Share your swimming experiences and insights in the comments section to contribute to a safer and healthier aquatic community!

For those seeking a controlled and safe swimming environment, our swim classes in West Hills offer professionally maintained pools that adhere to the highest standards of cleanliness and safety. Discover more about how our courses can help you enjoy swimming without the worry of health issues typically associated with unsupervised swimming areas.

Guest article.
The above may not coincide with the methodology and opinion of the SwimRight Academy Team.

James Setton
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