Things to Know: Why Do My Lungs Feel Weird After Swimming

Marjan Sokolovski

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My Lungs Feel Weird After Swimming

Swimming is a beloved pastime that offers numerous health benefits, from cardiovascular fitness to stress relief. 

However, for many swimmers, the post-swim experience can leave them puzzled and concerned. It’s not uncommon to wonder, “Why do my lungs feel weird after swimming?” 

This blog post delves into the intriguing world of post-swim lung sensations to shed light on what causes those unusual feelings. 

From changes in breathing patterns to the effects of pool chemicals, we’ll explore the various factors that may leave you with a unique sensation in your chest. 

Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or just taking your first strokes, understanding these sensations can enhance your swimming experience and reassure you that, in most cases, they’re nothing to be alarmed about. 

So, let’s dive in and demystify the mysteries of post-swim lung sensations. So, stay sharp. 

Why Do My Lungs Feel Weird After Swimming?

The sensation of your lungs feeling weird after swimming is a common experience and can be attributed to a few factors. 

First, the body’s response to water exposure often includes a change in breathing pattern. 

When you swim, you may take shorter and shallower breaths to avoid inhaling water. 

This altered breathing can lead to a feeling of discomfort or tightness in the chest, which can be mistaken for “weird” sensations in the lungs.

Additionally, the chlorine or other chemicals in pool water can irritate the respiratory system, causing temporary discomfort. 

If you’re swimming in cold water, the shock of the temperature change can also lead to an unusual sensation in your chest.

In most cases, these sensations are temporary and should subside as your body adjusts to the conditions. 

However, if you experience persistent or severe discomfort, it’s advisable to consult a medical professional to rule out any underlying issues.

How to Avoid Chest Hurts After Swimming?

I’m sure many of you face chest pain after swimming. To avoid chest discomfort after swimming, particularly if it feels like your chest hurts, follow these strategies:

Warm-Up and Stretch

Start your swimming session with a proper warm-up routine, including light exercises and stretching. 

This helps prepare your muscles and respiratory system for the activity, reducing the chances of chest discomfort. Focusing on gentle chest and shoulder stretches can be particularly beneficial.

Proper Swim Technique

Proper Swim Technique

Ensure you are using the correct swim strokes and techniques. Incorrect posture or overexertion can lead to chest discomfort. 

If you’re unsure about your technique, consider taking swimming lessons to improve your form and reduce strain on your chest muscles.

Controlled Breathing

Pay attention to your breathing technique while swimming. Shallow and erratic breathing can lead to discomfort. 

Practice rhythmic and controlled breathing, such as bilateral breathing (inhaling on both sides), to maintain a steady flow of oxygen and minimize strain on your chest.

Gradual Acclimatization

If you’re swimming in cold water, take time to gradually acclimatize to the temperature. 

Start with short swims and build up the duration as your body becomes accustomed to the cold. This can help prevent the shock to your system that might cause chest discomfort.

Stay Hydrated and Manage Pool Chemicals

Dehydration can exacerbate chest discomfort. Stay well-hydrated before and after swimming. Additionally, be mindful of the pool’s water quality. 

Chlorine and other chemicals can irritate the respiratory system, so choose pools with well-maintained water quality and consider wearing a swim cap or goggles to minimize exposure to chemicals.

If you continue to experience chest discomfort despite following these guidelines, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional, as there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Is Short of Breath After Swimming Dangerous?

Having shortness of breath after swimming is very common as well. 

Experiencing shortness of breath after swimming can be a concerning symptom, and while it is not always dangerous, it’s essential to consider various factors that could contribute to this sensation:

Common Causes

Shortness of breath after swimming is often a result of the increased demand on your respiratory system during exercise. 

It can be particularly common for novice swimmers or those not used to regular physical activity. In these cases, it is generally not dangerous and can be mitigated with improved fitness and swimming skills.

Underlying Health Conditions

Shortness of breath can also be a symptom of underlying health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, or heart problems. 

If you have a known respiratory condition or a history of heart issues, it’s crucial to be cautious and consult a healthcare professional before engaging in intense swimming or other physical activities.

Water Quality and Allergens

Water Quality and Allergens

Poor water quality in swimming pools can introduce irritants that trigger shortness of breath, especially in individuals with sensitivities or allergies. 

Chlorine or other chemicals, as well as algae or mold in the pool area, may exacerbate respiratory symptoms. Ensuring proper pool maintenance and considering antiallergenic measures can help.


Overexertion during swimming can lead to shortness of breath. Pushing yourself too hard, especially if you’re not in good physical condition, can strain your respiratory system. 

It’s crucial to pace yourself, build endurance gradually, and take breaks as needed.

Water Temperature

Swimming in very cold water can cause shortness of breath due to the body’s natural response to temperature shock. 

While this is not necessarily dangerous, it’s essential to acclimatize gradually and ensure you don’t stay in cold water for too long.

Mild shortness of breath after swimming is not dangerous and can be attributed to physical exertion. 

However, if the symptom persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning signs like chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, it could indicate a more serious issue.

Reasons for Unusual Lung Sensations After Swimming

Unusual lung sensations after swimming can be attributed to several factors, which may include:

Breathing Pattern Changes

Swimming often requires altering your normal breathing pattern to synchronize with your strokes and prevent inhaling water. This can lead to unusual sensations in the lungs, such as tightness or discomfort. 

Additionally, underwater breathing can feel different from breathing on land, which can contribute to these sensations.

Respiratory Irritants

Chlorine and other chemicals used in swimming pools can irritate the respiratory system, leading to unusual lung sensations, coughing, or a sensation of breathlessness. 

The quality of pool water, ventilation, and overall air hygiene in the pool area can affect the extent of these sensations.

Cold Water Shock

Cold Water Shock

Swimming in cold water can induce a natural response known as the cold water shock response. 

This can lead to rapid and shallow breathing, which may cause unusual lung sensations. Over time, as your body adjusts to the water temperature, these sensations should subside.

Exertion and Overexertion

The level of physical exertion during swimming can vary from person to person and from one swim session to another. 

Overexertion can lead to unusual sensations in the lungs, as your body is working harder, and your breathing rate may increase. 

It’s important to gradually build your stamina and take breaks as needed.

Asthma or Allergies

People with asthma or allergies may be more susceptible to unusual lung sensations after swimming. Chlorine and other pool chemicals can exacerbate respiratory issues. 

If you have asthma or allergies, it’s important to manage these conditions and take necessary precautions before swimming.

In most cases, these unusual lung sensations are temporary and not dangerous. They often improve as your body adapts to the exercise and the swimming environment. 

However, if these sensations persist, worsen, or are accompanied by severe symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain, it’s advisable to seek medical advice.

When to Seek Medical Advice for Chest Tightness After Swimming?

When to Seek Medical Advice for Chest Tightness After Swimming?

Chest tightness after swimming can be a concerning symptom, and it’s essential to know when to seek medical advice. 

Here are some situations in which you should consult a healthcare professional:

Persistent or Worsening Symptoms

If the chest tightness you experience after swimming persists or becomes more severe, it’s a red flag. 

Even if the discomfort is mild, if it doesn’t improve or worsens over time, you should seek medical advice to rule out any underlying issues.

Accompanying Symptoms

If chest tightness is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, or palpitations, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional immediately. 

These could be signs of a more serious medical condition.

Preexisting Health Conditions

If you have a history of heart problems, asthma, allergies, or any other respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, you should be especially cautious. 

Even mild chest discomfort should prompt a medical evaluation in such cases, as it may be related to an underlying health issue.

Sudden Onset

If you experience sudden and severe chest tightness immediately after swimming, it could be indicative of a medical emergency. In such situations, it’s essential to call for medical assistance without delay.

Recurring Symptoms

If you repeatedly experience chest tightness after swimming, even if the discomfort is mild, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. 

Recurring symptoms could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs attention.

While chest tightness after swimming can often be due to factors like altered breathing patterns or exertion, it’s crucial to be vigilant and seek medical advice in the presence of persistent, severe, or worsening symptoms.

Especially if accompanied by other concerning signs or if you have preexisting health conditions.


How to stop chest pain after swimming?

To stop chest pain after swimming, it’s crucial to identify the cause. Common reasons include overexertion, improper breathing technique, or underlying medical issues. 

To prevent it, ensure proper warm-up, maintain good swimming form, and practice controlled breathing. If the pain persists, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.

Why do my lungs hurt after swimming?

Lungs might hurt after swimming due to a few reasons. The chlorine in pool water or cold water temperature can irritate airways, leading to temporary discomfort. 

However, persistent lung pain could be a sign of overexertion, water inhalation, or a pre-existing respiratory condition, requiring medical attention.

Why does my chest hurt after swimming

Chest pain after swimming can result from multiple factors, including muscle fatigue, shallow breathing, or heart-related issues. 

It’s essential to distinguish between muscle soreness and cardiac-related pain. If the pain persists, consult a doctor to rule out any underlying cardiovascular problems.

Can swimming cause chest pain?

Swimming can cause chest pain, although it’s often non-cardiac in nature. It might be due to muscle fatigue, overexertion, or poor breathing techniques. 

However, chest pain should never be ignored, and if it’s severe, prolonged, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical evaluation.

Why do I have a tight chest after swimming?

A tight chest after swimming may be due to various factors, such as cold water exposure, improper breathing, or anxiety. Cold water can constrict blood vessels, causing a sensation of tightness. 

Focus on proper warm-up, breathing techniques, and gradual acclimatization to reduce chest tightness during and after swimming. If it persists, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough assessment.

Wrapping Up

The peculiar lung sensations you may experience after swimming can be disconcerting, but they are often benign and easily explained. 

Understanding that changes in your breathing patterns, pool chemicals, and even cold water shock can lead to these sensations is key to enjoying your swimming sessions worry-free. 

By following some of the tips we’ve covered in this post, such as controlled breathing techniques and gradual acclimatization, you can minimize any discomfort. 

Remember, while these sensations are usually harmless, it’s vital to consult a healthcare professional if they persist, worsen, or are accompanied by concerning symptoms, especially if you have preexisting health conditions. 

With proper knowledge and precautions, you can continue to embrace the many benefits of swimming without undue worry about those post-swim lung feelings. Happy and safe swimming!

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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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