Skip to main content

When summer rolls around, a comfortable day in the sun can quickly turn into a sweltering situation. Taking a dip in a swimming pool can offer a crisp moment of relief from the heat. 

Unfortunately, the very water that’s helping you keep cool in the summer sun can actually cause discomfort in the form of a condition called “swimmer’s sinusitis.” 

[Related: Tips for Traveling With Allergies]

What Causes Swimmer’s Sinusitis?

Sinus infections, aka sinusitis, occur when the skin lining the walls of your sinuses swells and becomes irritated. This swelling causes mucus to become trapped inside your sinus chambers. In turn, bacteria have a perfect place to grow and cause an infection.

Swimmer’s sinusitis is a sinus infection that happens after swimming in a chlorinated pool. If you get any water in your nose or ears, the chlorine can cause irritation and swelling, leading to an infection. Those already suffering from a cold or sinus infection should avoid swimming in chlorinated pools for this reason.

[Related: How To Sleep Soundly in the Summer Heat and Humidity]

How Long Does Swimmer’s Sinusitis Last?

Swimmer’s sinusitis can last from a few days to a couple of weeks. To nip the infection in the bud, you should be aware of swimmer’s sinusitis symptoms. When you are, you’ll know how to treat swimmer’s sinusitis early.

[Related: Sinusitis Problems That Occur in the Elderly]

Sinusitis Symptoms

So, how do you notice any swimmer’s sinusitis symptoms? If you’ve recently enjoyed a dip in a chlorinated pool and are experiencing the following signs, you’re likely suffering from swimmer’s sinusitis.

  • You’re experiencing facial pain and pressure at your temples, beneath your eyes and in your forehead (your sinus cavities or chambers).
  • You have nasal congestion, which can weaken your sense of smell.
  • You’ve tried every trick in the book for sore-throat relief. From popping throat lozenges to snacking on marshmallows to swallowing a teaspoon of honey, you’ve run the gamut. 
  • You have a persistently runny nose.
  • You spot green or yellow phlegm, a thicker secretion that can contain viruses, bacteria and discarded neutrophils.
  • Your favorite meals aren’t quite as tasty. With a sinus infection, your senses of smell and taste can decrease. This means that mouthwatering dinner you’ve been looking forward to all week might not live up to the hype.
  • You’ve gotten really good at fighting the urge to curl up in bed and sleep all day. Many people experience exhaustion with sinus infections, and dealing with intense facial pressure and headaches can make it even worse.

Is Swimmer’s Sinusitis Contagious? 

You might worry about spreading swimmer’s sinusitis, especially if you have kids. If you’re wondering whether swimmer’s sinusitis is contagious, we can fill you in. 

The virus that causes the infection is contagious, but the illness itself is not. So until you’re over the infection, practice good hygiene and avoid unnecessary social contact. Keeping clean and steering clear of others lessen your chances of passing the virus around. 

[Related: Are Nasal Polyps Disrupting Your Life?]

How To Prevent Swimmer’s Sinusitis

Fortunately, you can take some preventive measures to help keep chlorine from irritating your sinuses. 

If you swim in a public pool, ask staff when they do chlorine treatments. Chlorine levels will be highest right after they’ve treated the pool, so avoid swimming the first couple days after they’ve added chlorine to the water. 

In addition to avoiding the pool on days with high chlorine levels, you can use other tactics to protect your sinuses during a swim. Before jumping in, put on swimming earplugs and don a nose clip. They may not look fashion forward, but earplugs and a nose clip help prevent chlorine from reaching your sinuses. 

Then, when you finish your swim, use a neti pot with a sterile saline solution to rinse out any residual chlorine that might have slipped past your nose clip and earplugs. 

Finally, don’t delay your post-swim shower for hours. Soap up and rinse off all the lingering chlorine as soon as you’ve finished taking a dip. Showering immediately after a swim has the added benefit of helping prevent chlorine from drying out your skin and hair.

[Related: Cold vs. Allergies: How To Spot the Differences]

How To Treat Swimmer’s Sinusitis

If sinusitis still keeps you from fully enjoying your summer swims after taking these preventive measures, a bigger issue may lie behind your sinus troubles. Seeking care from a specialist physician is the first step in finding your best course of treatment. 

[Related: The Ear Condition That Could Ruin Your Summer Vacation]

Connect With Dr. Pasha Today

Dr. Pasha always works with patients to find and treat their sinus conditions at the source. That way, you can clear your sinuses and breathe freely again. 

Don’t let swimmer’s sinusitis ruin your poolside plans. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Pasha today!