Chilling Waters: Why Do I Get Cold After Swimming?

Marjan Sokolovski

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Get Cold After Swimming

Have you ever wondered why you feel a shiver down your spine after a refreshing dip in the pool, even on a hot summer day? 

The answer lies in the intricate interplay between your body, the water, and the surrounding environment. In our blog post, “Chilling Waters: Why Do I Get Cold After Swimming?” we’ll delve into the science behind this phenomenon.

We’ll explore how the temperature of the water, wind chill, and prolonged exposure all influence your post-swim chills. 

From the body’s thermoregulatory responses to the effects of wet skin and the risk of hypothermia, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive understanding of why this sensation occurs.

So, whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or a casual pool-goer, this blog post will equip you with valuable insights to make your swimming experience more enjoyable and safer. Let’s dive in and uncover the secrets of post-swim chills.

Why Do I Get Cold After Swimming in Pool?

Feeling cold after swimming in a pool can be attributed to several factors:


As you come out of the water, the moisture on your skin begins to evaporate, which can make you feel colder, especially if there is a breeze or wind. This effect is more pronounced if the air temperature is lower.

Wet clothing

If you don’t immediately change out of your wet swimwear and into dry, warm clothing, the water on your skin and in your clothing can draw heat away from your body, making you feel chilly.

Lower body temperature

Prolonged exposure to water, especially in cooler pool temperatures, can cause your body temperature to drop slightly. 

Your body tries to maintain a core temperature of around 98.6°F (37°C), and being in cold water for an extended period can lead to heat loss.

Physical activity

Swimming is an exercise, and when you are active in the water, your body generates heat. When you stop swimming and exit the pool, your body’s heat production decreases, making you feel colder.

Wind and weather conditions

The weather and wind conditions can significantly impact how you feel after swimming. A windy or cold environment can make you feel even colder when you get out of the pool.

Feeling cold after swimming is a common experience, but taking steps to dry off and warm up can help you stay comfortable and prevent excessive cooling of your body.

The Body’s Natural Response to Water

The Body's Natural Response to Water

The body has several natural responses to being in or exposed to water, which are designed to help regulate body temperature, maintain buoyancy, and protect the body from the effects of water exposure. 

Here are some of the body’s natural responses to water:


When you enter cold water, your body’s natural response is to maintain its core temperature. It does this by constricting blood vessels in the skin, which reduces blood flow to the extremities and reduces heat loss through the skin. 

In contrast, when you enter warm water, your body may dilate blood vessels in the skin to dissipate heat and keep your core temperature from rising too high.


If the water is very cold and your body temperature drops, you may start shivering. Shivering is a reflexive response that generates heat to help warm your body.


The human body is naturally buoyant, which means it tends to float in water. This buoyancy is due to the density of the human body being slightly less than the density of water. The body’s buoyancy makes it easier to stay afloat in water.

Respiratory Adaptations

When you submerge yourself in water, your body automatically makes adjustments to your respiratory system. 

You hold your breath to prevent water from entering your airways. When you resurface or start swimming, you begin to breathe again.

Pruning of Fingers and Toes

Prolonged exposure to water, particularly in the fingers and toes, can lead to the skin wrinkling or “pruning.” 

This is thought to be an adaptation that helps improve grip in wet conditions by creating channels for water to flow away from the fingertips.

Hypothermia Response

In cold water, the body can go into a hypothermia response if it is unable to maintain its core temperature. This can involve a reduction in blood flow to the extremities and an overall slowing down of bodily functions to conserve energy.

Adaptation to Water Pressure

When you go underwater, the pressure on your body increases with depth. The body adapts to this change in pressure by compressing the air spaces in the body, such as the ears and sinuses. 

This is why you may need to equalize pressure in your ears when diving underwater.

Swimming Reflexes

Infants and young children often exhibit swimming reflexes when placed in water, such as the instinctive ability to paddle and kick their legs. 

These reflexes are typically strongest in the first few months of life and gradually diminish as children grow and learn to swim consciously.

These natural responses to water are the result of both physiological adaptations and reflexes that have evolved over time to help humans survive and thrive in aquatic environments. 

The body’s ability to adapt to different water conditions and temperatures is a testament to its remarkable capacity for homeostasis and environmental adaptation.

The Temperature of the Water Regarding Feeling Cold After Swimming

The temperature of the water you’re swimming in can have a significant impact on how you feel after swimming. Here’s how different water temperatures can affect your body:

Cold Water (Below 70°F or 21°C)

Cold Water (Below 70°F or 21°C)

  • Immediate Chill: When you first enter very cold water, it can cause an immediate chill as your body tries to adapt to the temperature difference.
  • Hypothermia Risk: Prolonged exposure to water below 70°F (21°C) can lead to a drop in your core body temperature, increasing the risk of hypothermia if you stay in the water for an extended period.
  • Faster Cooling: Cold water conducts heat away from your body more rapidly, so you may feel cold more quickly when you exit the water.
  • Shivering: Cold water often triggers shivering, which is a natural response to generate heat and maintain body temperature.

Cool Water (70-80°F or 21-27°C)

  • Mild Cooling: Water in this temperature range may lead to mild cooling when you first enter but is generally comfortable for most people.
  • Reduced Hypothermia Risk: While there is still a risk of hypothermia with prolonged exposure, it’s lower than in very cold water.
  • Moderate Heat Loss: Your body will lose heat to the water, but it won’t be as rapid as in colder water.

Moderate Water (80-85°F or 27-29°C)

  • Comfortable: Many people find water in this range to be comfortable for swimming.
  • Minimal Heat Loss: Your body will lose some heat to the water, but the rate of heat loss is slower compared to colder water.
  • Less Immediate Chill: You are less likely to experience an immediate chill when you enter the water.

Warm Water (Above 85°F or 29°C)

  • Little Cooling: In very warm water, you are less likely to experience significant cooling, and you may even feel warm and comfortable while swimming.
  • Reduced Heat Loss: Your body will lose minimal heat to the water in warm conditions.

The perceived coldness you experience after swimming is influenced not only by the water temperature but also by the air temperature and wind conditions when you exit the water. 

If the air is significantly colder than the water, you may feel even colder upon leaving the pool. 

It’s essential to take precautions when swimming in cold water to prevent excessive cooling and hypothermia, such as gradually acclimating to the temperature and having a warm place to dry off and change into dry clothing. 

In contrast, swimming in warm water is less likely to induce a strong feeling of coldness upon exiting, and it can be quite comfortable.

Wet Skin and Wind Chills After Swimming

Wet Skin and Wind Chills After Swimming

Wet skin combined with wind chill can make you feel even colder after swimming. 

Here’s how this combination affects your body:

Evaporative Cooling

When your skin is wet, the water on the surface of your skin can evaporate when exposed to the air. Evaporation is a cooling process that draws heat away from your body. 

The faster the evaporation, the more significant the cooling effect.

Wind Chill Effect

The Wind chill is a measure of how cold the air feels due to the combined effect of temperature and wind speed. When the wind blows over your wet skin, it accelerates the evaporation of the water on your skin’s surface. 

This, in turn, intensifies the cooling effect on your body, making you feel even colder than you would in still air.

Loss of Insulating Layer

Dry clothing acts as an insulating layer that helps retain the heat your body generates. When your clothing is wet, it loses its insulating properties, and the wind can easily penetrate the wet fabric, further cooling your body.

The wind chill factor can make you feel significantly colder, so it’s important to take precautions to stay warm and minimize the risk of hypothermia or cold-related discomfort when you have wet skin in windy conditions.

Extended Exposure and Hypothermia Regarding Feeling Cold in Swimming Pool

Extended exposure to cold water in a swimming pool can increase the risk of hypothermia, which is a potentially dangerous condition where your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to a decrease in your core body temperature. 

Here’s how extended exposure to cold water in a swimming pool can contribute to hypothermia and what you can do to mitigate the risk:

Prolonged Cold Exposure

Prolonged Cold Exposure

The longer you stay in cold water, the more heat your body loses. Prolonged exposure to water below a certain temperature can lower your core body temperature, increasing the risk of hypothermia. 

Hypothermia can occur more rapidly in very cold water, particularly if the water temperature is significantly lower than your body temperature.

Body Heat Loss

Water conducts heat away from your body much more efficiently than air. As you stay in the pool, your body loses heat to the water, especially if the water is colder than your body temperature. 

This can lead to shivering, loss of coordination, and impaired cognitive function, all of which are early signs of hypothermia.

Reduced Ability to Warm Up

If you’re unable to warm up after swimming in cold water due to inadequate shelter, warm clothing, or other factors, the risk of hypothermia increases. Wind chill can further intensify heat loss and contribute to feeling colder.

To mitigate the risk of hypothermia after extended exposure to a cold swimming pool:

  • Limit Swimming Time: Avoid staying in very cold water for extended periods, especially if the water temperature is significantly lower than your body temperature.
  • Gradual Acclimation: If you plan to swim in colder water, allow your body to gradually acclimate to the temperature by entering the water slowly and taking short breaks to warm up if necessary.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: In colder conditions, consider wearing a wetsuit or thermal swimwear to retain body heat.
  • Dry Off and Change Quickly: After swimming, dry off promptly with a towel and change into dry, warm clothing. Pay attention to wet hair, which can lead to significant heat loss.
  • Seek Warmth: Find a warm indoor environment to warm up after swimming, and use warm beverages to help raise your body temperature.
  • Monitor for Signs of Hypothermia: Be aware of the early signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, numbness, and confusion. If you or someone you’re with shows these signs, it’s important to seek warm shelter and medical attention if necessary.

It’s crucial to take the risk of hypothermia seriously, as severe hypothermia can be life-threatening. 

Always prioritize safety when swimming in cold water and be prepared to take action to prevent hypothermia and maintain your body’s core temperature within a safe range.

Proper Post-Swim Care for Cold-Like Symptoms After Swimming in Pool

Proper Post-Swim Care for Cold-Like Symptoms After Swimming in Pool

If you experience cold-like symptoms after swimming in a pool, it’s possible that you may have been exposed to irritants or pathogens in the water, which can lead to symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or a sore throat. 

These symptoms are often referred to as “swimmer’s rhinitis” or “pool nose.” Here are some steps to take for proper post-swim care if you develop cold-like symptoms:

Get Out of Wet Clothing

Change out of your wet swimwear and into dry clothing as soon as you exit the pool. Wet clothing can make you feel colder and may contribute to discomfort.

Shower and Rinse

Take a warm shower to rinse off any pool chemicals or contaminants from your skin and hair. Use mild soap and shampoo to ensure thorough cleaning.

Blow Your Nose Gently

If you have a runny or stuffy nose, blow your nose gently to clear mucus and irritants. Avoid blowing too forcefully, as it can irritate the nasal passages.

Use a Nasal Rinse

A saline nasal rinse or spray can help flush out irritants from your nasal passages and provide relief. Follow the instructions on the product packaging or consult a healthcare professional for guidance.

Consider Allergies

If your symptoms persist, consider the possibility of allergies to pool chemicals or other environmental factors. Allergies can mimic cold symptoms. An allergist can help diagnose and manage allergies.

Consult a Healthcare Professional

If your symptoms persist, worsen, or are accompanied by a fever or other concerning symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional. 

They can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

Preventative Measures

To reduce the risk of developing a swimmer’s rhinitis or similar symptoms, consider wearing a nose clip or using nasal plugs while swimming to prevent water from entering your nasal passages. 

Also, ensure the pool you’re swimming in is properly maintained with appropriate chlorine levels and water pH.

It’s essential to differentiate between cold-like symptoms caused by irritants in the pool and actual infectious illnesses. 

If you suspect an infection, such as a cold or flu, it’s best to follow general guidelines for treating these conditions, such as rest, hydration, and over-the-counter cold remedies. 

If you believe your symptoms are directly related to pool water, consider seeking advice from the pool management to ensure that proper water quality and maintenance measures are in place.


Why do I get cold after swimming?

Feeling cold after swimming is often caused by evaporative cooling and the loss of body heat due to wet skin. When you exit the water, the moisture on your skin starts to evaporate, taking away heat with it. 

Additionally, swimming in cooler water temperatures can further reduce your body temperature, making you feel cold.

Why do we feel cold after swimming?

When we swim, our bodies become wet, and this moisture on the skin can lead to a cooling effect as it evaporates. Even if the air temperature is warm, the damp skin can make us feel chilly. 

The body’s natural response to wetness and water evaporation is to conserve heat, often causing a sensation of cold.

Why do I feel cold after swimming?

Feeling cold after swimming is a result of the body’s attempt to regulate its temperature. When you’re in the water, especially if it’s cooler than your body temperature, your body loses heat to the surroundings. 

After swimming, your wet skin continues to lose heat through evaporation, causing you to feel cold until your body warms up and dries off.

Can swimming in cold water make you cold after swimming?

Yes, swimming in cold water can definitely make you feel cold after swimming. Cold water conducts heat away from your body more efficiently than warm water, causing a rapid drop in body temperature. 

When you exit the water, the contrast in temperature can make you feel even colder.

How can I stay warm after swimming in cold water?

To stay warm after swimming in cold water, dry off as quickly as possible and put on warm clothing. 

Use a towel or a changing robe to remove moisture from your skin. Consuming hot beverages and eating warm, energy-rich foods can also help raise your body temperature. 

Wrapping Up

Understanding why you get cold after swimming is not only fascinating but also essential for your comfort and safety in and around the water. 

Whether you’re embracing the cool embrace of the ocean or relaxing in a pool, the water’s temperature, the wind, and your body’s natural responses all play a role in how you feel after a swim.

By being aware of these factors and taking the necessary precautions, such as drying off promptly, changing into warm clothing, and seeking shelter from the wind, you can ensure a more enjoyable and cozy post-swim experience. 

Remember, while the cold may be invigorating, it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being and make the most of your aquatic adventures, free from the chills that can follow a dip in the water.

Photo of author

Marjan Sokolovski

I am a professional swimming coach who has been coaching for over 20 years. I have coached athletes in the Olympics and Paralympics, and I have also helped to train people across the world. I started my coaching career by teaching swimming lessons at a local pool. I was really passionate about teaching people how to swim, but I quickly realized that this wasn't enough for me. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives and help them achieve their goals. I started working with athletes in high school, college, and then professionally. The best part about coaching is that you get the opportunity to work with so many different types of people from all walks of life - it's just incredible! LinkedIn

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