Swimming With a Cough

Having a cough while you swim can interfere with your performance and endurance. Exposure to pool chemicals; chronic conditions such as allergies or asthma; or respiratory infections can all cause you to cough as you swim. Fortunately, you can prevent or treat coughing related to swimming by changing your routine and/or with medications and medical care.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


You might notice coughing more often when you are swimming at a fast pace or when you are swimming in an enclosed, chlorinated pool. Your coughing might linger even after you finish swimming. You might also notice additional symptoms, including tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing and decreased performance while you swim.


Breathing in halogen gases such as chlorine and bromine, which are used in the chemical treatment of pool water, can cause you to cough while swimming. Swallowing pool or lake water while swimming might also make you cough, especially if there are chemicals or particulates in the water. Medical conditions such as asthma, exercise-induced asthma and allergies can cause you to cough while you swim, especially if you attempt to swim at a vigorous pace 2. If you have both allergies and asthma, your risk of developing symptoms such as coughing is greater. Swimming might exacerbate your cough if you have a respiratory illness such as influenza, a cold, bronchitis or pneumonia, or if you smoke.


Taking an over-the-counter or prescription allergy relief medication -- such as an antihistamine or decongestant -- before you swim can treat or even prevent coughing. If you suffer from asthma or exercise-induced asthma, warming up and cooling down for 15 minutes before and after your swim might also reduce or prevent coughing while you swim, advises the American Academy of Family Physicians 2. In addition, taking your asthma medication before swimming and bringing a fast-acting medicine such as a rescue inhaler can treat coughing during and after a swim. Allow viral infections such as colds and influenza to resolve before returning to swimming, advises the National Library of Medicine 2.


Swim in an outdoor pool or wear a nose clip while you swim to help prevent coughing related to respiratory exposure to pool chemicals. Inspect the facility records at the pool where you swim to check the levels of chemicals, especially if you have asthma or allergies that are worsened by environmental exposure. Breathing through your nose while you swim might also help prevent you from coughing, especially if you have asthma or exercise-induced asthma, advises the National Library of Medicine 2.