A few days ago, I suddenly overcame my fear of getting water up my nose while in the swimming pool, and ever since then, I've been dog-paddling, diving underwater, and splashing around without a care in the world.

Whenever I do this, some water gets up my nose. This is a little uncomfortable, but for me, there are no obvious problems—I can still breathe through my mouth, and I don't inhale any water.

So my question is, are there any disadvantages to letting water enter the nose? Will it cause health problems or something, or am I perfectly fine just continuing as I've been doing?

4 Answers 4


Growing up surfing, I'd get water in my nose constantly. When stuffed up I'd splash some up in there and snot rocket all the junk out. Even a "saline nasal spray" is just a fancy way of blowing salt water into your nose. If there's a problem I'd venture to guess it has more to do with whatever badness is in the water (chemicals, pathogens, etc).

You can also work on trying to stop the water from getting in. There are various techniques, ranging from saying the letter "T" (to close your soft palate) to a slow and steady breathing out from the nose.

Still, at least in surfing and scuba diving, you're going to get some water in your nose no matter what you do. I'd only be concerned if you're getting water into your lungs, otherwise interfering with respiration, or are swimming in some fouled water.

Credentials wise, I'm a PADI Dive Master (including Rescue Diver), USCG Master, and Wilderness First Responder.

  • 1
    I grew up a competitive swimmer, and other than nose plugs, there's no way to prevent water up the nose on occasion. Good answer overall, +1.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 19:34
  • Somehow I have the ability to push my upper lip against my nostrils for a sufficiently tight seal. So no need to exhale during backstroke push off the wall!
    – andrewb
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 0:23

I am water skier and bare footer. When you are coming up especially on a bare foot back up trick you may get water up your nose. It does irritate some people and they just use water proof bandage tape to tape the nostrils shut. I learned it from Mike Seipel - a former bare world barefoot champion.


Your specific question is:

are there any disadvantages to letting water enter the nose?

Aside from any annoyance or discomfort, the disadvantages are a potential for infection and possible swallowing irritants. Any time recreational water enters your body, there is a risk of infection. Other swimmers may be contaminating the pool (e.g., swimming after using the toilet without showering in between). Even in chlorinated pools there is always some risk, and many pools are not maintained to ideal standards. With open water swimming there are risks from contaminants flowing into the water from the surface (e.g., animal waste, trash, etc.) The best advice is to find out if the pool you use is well-maintained, and if the open water you swim in is subject to sewage outflows, storm runoff, etc., to not swim right after a rainstorm, and to try and minimize how much water you get inside you. The other disadvantage is that water that enters your nose may get swallowed, and may have irritants such as chlorine, salt, etc.

I wouldn't worry about it, just swim and have fun, but also try and be prudent and avoid excessive risks.


Adding to the other answers:

No, there are no particular disadvantages to getting your nose full of water. Pools are generally rather clean, and lakes and oceans are too, at least where you are likely to swim. And if you are feet down head up, your nostrils are down, making it hard for the water to enter if you close your epiglottis.

That said, you should of course exhale under water through your nose to avoid any discomfort. Even if you are swimming strenuously, or doing other exercises in the water that make you breathe heavily, you can always exhale partly through the nose.

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