Getting water in the nose while swimming. (How to plug your nose, so you do not choke on water?) - part 1

Be a Safer Swimmer - 360swim SaferSwimmer

Apr 26, 2011

Getting water in the nose while swimming. (How to plug your nose, so you do not choke on water?) - part 1

The efficient movement of our bodies in the water while swimming, does not come naturally to the majority of our water filled planet's population.

Putting our faces in the water and having fun around and in our local pools, lakes, oceans, seas or rivers is, however, as common as your favorite bread.

Holding your nose keeping you down? by lintmachine
Though a very common skill such as holding your breath underwater is easy to master, many unlucky individuals never get the hang of it and are not able to put their head/face under water without holding their nose or using a nose plug.

Is this you? If so, I urge you to continue reading. You will not regret it.

There are a few reasons why these unfortunate folks (meaning you) never grasp this easy to learn skill of not having to plug your nose when you go underwater.

I am going to venture out and say that the number one reason is that nobody has taken the time to properly explain to you how to do this and thus subjecting you to a life full of water up your nose.

A very uncomfortable feeling indeed.

Many instructors do not spend the time to explain why the water goes up the nose and what are the correct exercises to prevent it. They just simply suggest wearing a nose plug or plugging your nose.

A common nose plug - click image to see more

None of these are actual solutions to the problem. They are just small band aids.

Try learning how to swim freestyle while holding your nose. That is an impossible feat and plain silly if you ask me.

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t have a problem with wearing a nose plug, on the contrary, for example, I recommend my swimmers to wear nose plugs during competitions for their backstroke swims. This way they don’t lose air out of their lungs while doing their underwater kick.

Nonetheless, I also don’t like to see and do unnecessary things and wearing a nose plug for a front style swimming stroke such as freestyle or breaststroke is definitely not necessary.

So, how do you control the air and water in your nose?

First, let’s look at the problem. 

If you are one of the unlucky individuals, the issue at hand is that you are not able to plug your nasal passage and thus the difference in pressure outside in the water and inside your body is forcing the water to go up your nose (there is really nothing to stop it). 

Furthermore, when you then manage to get your head out of the water and try to take a breath, you do not isolate mouth breaths from your nose breaths properly. 

So you do end up taking a breath with both your nose and your mouth simultaneously which causes even more discomfort since your nose is already partially filled with water.

So graciously holding the nose by BillPStudios
Don’t despair though, there is always hope. To plug your nasal air passage you will have to use a small muscular area, located at the back of your throat, called the soft palate (Velum)

When the soft palate is closed, it separates your nasal cavity from your oral cavity, so air only flows through your mouth. 


Yes, actually it is. With a few straightforward exercises you will be able to close the nose like everybody else.

As a first step, to feel the soft palate, you should practice pronouncing, so called velar consonants

In the English language, they would be for example the "ng" ending of the word "swimming". 

Notice where the back of the tongue touches? That is your soft palate. 

Feel free to use a mirror to check out what is happening in your mouth.

Now, you know where your soft palate is, so let’s close the nasal passage with the help of so-called stop consonants

There are 2 sets of these consonants, depending on where you want your air to flow. 

The "T", "P", "K" and similar type consonants are so-called oral stops and "M", "N" consonants are nasal stops. 

Now your turn. Try it!

If you say the word "swim" and pause at the "M" letter, your soft palate is in the position where air can be exhaled from your nose and not your mouth. 

On the other hand, and this is more interesting for swimming and plugging your nose, if you say the word "kick" and stop your tongue from finishing the word at the first letter "K", you will notice that you can softly exhale out of your mouth, but not your nose. 

Hence, your nasal tract is closed and no water (when submerged) can get in.

And there you have it. No more water up your nose when going underwater.

Happy Swimmers Without Water Up Their Noses

I’d suggest for you to practice the different consonants and the tongue positions out of the water. And when you are ready, get into the shallow end where you can stand and start dipping your head in with holding the "K", "T", or "P" oral stop consonants, so your nasal passage closes.

When this becomes easy. Add a slow bobbing rhythm, so you go down under water for 5 seconds, then come up, take a quick breath (only through your mouth while holding the "Kay" consonant) and back down for 5 seconds. Like you’d be a buoy on the water going rhythmically up and down.

After you no longer have to hold your nose when you go underwater, move onto basic swimming while repeating the tongue exercises in your head.

You will start plugging the nose with your soft palate automatically without even thinking about it in no time.

Remember, be patient as these exercises might take days and for some even weeks to master, but if you prevail, I am confident that you will succeed.

As an advanced step, feel free to also try the human nose clip technique described in my next post.

If you have tried many times to get rid of the water in your nose during swimming and even the above mentioned soft palate consonant technique does not work for you, perhaps, before you go the nose plug route, you could opt into a small mask which actually covers your nose as well as your eyes.

This way, there is no danger of water ever getting into your nose.

I am not suggesting you wear a regular scuba mask for swimming, but there exists larger type goggles which mask which very closely resembles a small scuba mask.

Swimming mask - very comfortable - click image for more details

Did you manage to get rid off the water up your nose problem or found some other technique that works best for you?

Don't hesitate to share with me your experience and please join me for more tips like these by
Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.


Unknown said...

I really enjoy your blog. Thank your for sharing your insights. While I was reading this post I was wondering to myself where I fit in. Do I have control of water going up my nose or not? When I got the pool for my workout the other day I asked my coach (Silver medal 1976 Olympics) if he ever gets water up his nose. He told me that from time to time when he does a flip turn that he gets water up his nose. That is the exact same thing that happens to me so I figured I have control of the issue and I understand the points of the blog and I am one of the people who can control water up the nose. Then my coach said there are some people who dont get water up their nose no matter what they do. This concerned me. Maybe I didnt have control and neither did my Olympic medalist coach! So my question is by using the techniques described in the blog post can we become one of those people that never ever gets water up their nose or are we already on the right track? Thanks.

libor said...

to David: thanks for your comment and question. Since you don't have any problems swimming, you can rest assured you can plug your nose with the above technique just fine :). You actually bring up an interesting point though. There is indeed a second, more advanced skill in regards to water going up the nose. The article above describes the basic way to plug your nose, so you can swim. What you are referring to is the ability to plug your nose during a flip turn or underwater backstroke kick. This requires a different technique and is a bit harder to learn. I'll try to write up an article on this. Stay tuned.

boogying on the beach said...

I can't wait to try this technique. I've never been able to do the crawl because when I blow air into the water, it goes right up my nose. No one has explained how this is prevented. They just seem to think it odd that it happens. I was a P.E. major and made a C in swimming (much to my dismay) because I swam the lenth of the pool not blowing into the water, but holding my breath. My teacher said I did a great job of holding my breath however. I was so ignorant that I didn't think she'd notice!! LOL!!

boogying on the beach said...

I really do know how to spell "length" though I was a P.E. major. As a retiree, I want to swim for exercise. Swimming like a turtle with head out of water has gotten tough on the old neck discs! I bet this technique works!!

libor said...

@ boogying on the beach: thanks for your comment. I hope the tips will help you and your neck gets some needed rest. Don't hesitate to ask any questions or share with us how it went for you.

Anonymous said...

might be a stupid question but do these techniques work when jumping off rocks from high up. or are there other techniques when doing that?

libor said...

@anonymous: thanks for the question and it is not stupid:). I reckon the plugging nose technique described in the post should help when you do some cliff jumping. Or you can start exhaling through your nose at the time you enter the water. This way you are blowing air against the water coming in.

Anonymous said...

Ever since I was a kid I haven't been able to hold my breath without holding my nose. I've realized now however, that if I'm going to fulfill my dreams I need to learn this skill. My dream is to become a United States Marine. Holding my breath without my hand is going to be the difference of making it or not. I've been trying for the past month now (not this technique yet), and have been having inconsistent results. I'm hoping this is the key to my success and will help resolve this issue!

Swimator said...

@anonymous: thanks for sharing your dream. Good luck to you. Hope your nose stays clear of water now :).

Anonymous said...

I have always been told that i need to breathe out of my nose underwater when swimming but if i do these techniques i wont be able to will i. Bit comfused

libor said...

@anonymous: thanks for your comment. If you get water in your nose while under water, it is better you blow bubbles through your mouth while you swim as you cannot control the air through your nose. If you blow through your nose, all air goes out very quickly, but with your mouth, you can release only as much air as you need.

When being under water is your second nature then you can blow bubbles through both your mouth and nose.

Protomold said...

Thanks for your explanation. It is very helpful. Now for a possibly stupid question. How/when do you swallow when you're doing the front crawl? I can't breath out my nose and swallow at the same when I stop breathing out my nose to swallow...up goes the water. Someone suggested not swallowing...but that just makes me choke. (I'm trying to swim 2km)
Thanks in advance for your response!

libor said...

@Protomold: glad you find the instruction helpful and thanks for your question. I'd have to ask: what makes you think that you need to swallow? I don't think swallowing is necessary. Just breath, blow air into the water and breath again.

Kate said...

Thanks I will try these tips. I just started swimming again after not doing it for years. I used to be really good at freestyle but stopped due to water going up my nose. So I was doing breaststroke and backcrawl all the time. If it does not work your other suggestion was good. I find nose plugs really uncomfortable to wear but I can get googles that cover the nose. Thanks :)

Swimator said...

Hi Kate, thanks for your comment and congrats on finding your way into the water again. Please come back and share with us how it went for you.

Anonymous said...

I got water into my mouth when I try to breath. how do you prevent that?

Swimator said...

to anonymous: thanks for your question. Unfortunately, it is tough to answer your question without knowing more. For example: what position you are in when you get water in your mouth etc. If you are just going under water and then back above water to take a breath in horizontal position, try waiting a few more seconds before you take a breath. This way, the excess water which is on your face will run off. This also means, do not stay under water until you are fully out of breath. Keep some reserve.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much.
When I try to wait just as you said,
I drop into the water before I can take
I think my real problem is.
I cannot take air into
my lung fast enough.
Can you give me advise.

Swimator said...

to anonymous: does this happen during your swimming or during just vertically going up and down in the pool? If during your swimming, you should start working on the proper positioning of your body, so you get more comfortable with the way your body behaves in the water. You might also be getting water into your mouth, because you do not rotate your hips enough and thus you swim too flat (see: balance drills for some inspiration). Finally, you can also try exhaling some of your air a moment before you are ready to take a breath, so you only inhale out of the water and not exhale as well. If none of the above work, you can send me a video (url or a file) of you swimming and then I can tell you exactly what you need to fix.

Anonymous said...

Hi.I think your blog is wonderful. I have had some troubles such as the above mentioned.My siblings, all 4 of them could swim without pinching their noses,so when we go for vacations, we tend to make a small competition at the pool or beach.Usually, I would be the last one to reach the finish line because when swimming, while my other hand is covering my nose, the other is struggling hard to swim..I just hate that feeling when water goes up my nose, into my throat and up my brain.It is just so painful.So, I always ended up at the kiddies pool, which is indecent fore a 16 year old girl. So I wanted to try your suggested techniques, but failed miserably. Probably because I was scared and confused.So we are going on a vacation again this December, and I heard the beach is really cool, so I really wanted to learn swimming fast. Is this the only possible way to breathe normally underwater aside from nose plugs?Will I ever swim gracefully anymore?Am I doomed to this unfortunate fate?Is this the end of me?What will happen if I try too hard?
-Thanks in advance-

libor said...

to Heidi: thanks for your kind words and for sharing your experience. You shouldn't loose hope. With some practice and determination, anyone can learn not to get water in the nose. You should try the above described method in some shallow calm water while you are standing up and submerging yourself into the water. So you have time to think about it and are not distracted by trying to swim at the same time. When you get it right, then try floating with your face in the water and standing up again to take a breath. Here are a few pointers:
1) you metioned "Is this the only possible way to breathe normally underwater" - well, you don't actually breathe under water, you breathe above the water and always inhale with your mouth (not your nose)
2) when you swim freestyle, you face is down, eyes looking at the bottom of the pool and when you need to take a breath, this is usually when the water enters the nose as you turn your head to the side to take a breath. To help with this, start blowing air through your nose out into the water right before you are about to take a breath. This will create an outward surge of air and no water will come in.

Hope this helped a little. It is hard to give advice without actually being there with your in the pool, but keep going and don't give up, you will eventually get it. Trying different things helps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I remember not needing to do anything to stop water from getting into my nose when I was a child, unfortunately since spending 10 years not swimming I seem to have lost it - even dipping my head in the bath starts me thinking I'm going to drown. I think practicing this should help me get back to the water :) Thanks!

SteveD said...

I'm a little curious as to the extent of this problem and where I stand with my ability.

If I lay back into the water, facing the surface, I am able to shut my nose cavity off from my throat. But, the cavity still fills with water.

You mentioned to Heidi:
2) when you swim freestyle, you face is down, eyes looking at the bottom of the pool and when you need to take a breath, this is usually when the water enters the nose as you turn your head to the side to take a breath. To help with this, start blowing air through your nose out into the water right before you are about to take a breath. This will create an outward surge of air and no water will come in.

I was under the impression that water was always trying to rush in your nose as your head begins to face the surface as being normal for everyone.

Is that correct? Or should I be working on this technique (or some other technique) that could prevent water entering the nasal cavity as my head turns? Or is this technique just to seal off the nasal cavity water from going down your throat?

SteveD said...

Oh and I appreciate input from anyone who might be able to help me out. Thanks!

Swimator said...

@SteveD: thanks for your question.

You are correct in the statement that when you turn your head upside down (facing up towards the ceiling) water will always rush in.

The nose plugging technique described in this article is mainly for individuals who have hard time keeping water out of the nose while the face is down in the water (facing the bottom). Sounds like you have mastered this.

To Heidi, I was explaining what to do during the transition period between bottom facing and top facing position. Since this transition period is short, you can purge air out of your nose to keep the water from flowing in.

For the ceiling facing water into the nose issue, you should use the human nose clip technique -

If you have issue of water getting into your nose during a flip turn, you could try the human nose clip technique or just purging air through your nose and that should do the trick.

SteveD said...

Thanks. I appreciate the response.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this page! I'm in my forties and never learned to swim because the water going up my nose HURTS, and nobody was able to explain how to prevent it. Following your tips I'm able to do the dead man's float and glide with my face in the water, for the first time.

The next thing I want to try is rotary breathing, and there I hit a snag. When I turn my head sideways out of the water, the water comes in my nose. Sometimes it enters as I'm tipping my head out, and sometimes it enters as I'm tipping my head back in. I'm only turning far enough to get my mouth into the air, and I'm keeping my ear in the water, so it's not that I'm turning toward the ceiling and having it run in that way.

Any idea what I'm doing wrong? Or is there something I need to know to keep the water out while breathing, in addition to the tips on this page? Has anyone else heard of this particular problem?


Swimator said...

@anonymous: wonderful. Congratulations on your skill improvements :).

From what you have described, I would not start learning how to breathe just yet. Breathing skill is very difficult to learn without having a great body balance and control in the water. I'd suggest learning to rotate your body from one side to the other without breathing first.

However, to address your question. When you start rotating your head to breathe, your nose goes from pointing down towards the bottom of the pool to going to the side where you get some water in. During the rotation, you can do a couple of things:

1) blow through your nose during the rotation, this will keep the water out
2) try learning to maneuver your upper lip to cover the nostrils which also is a good technique to keep the water out.

Hope this helps.

Palo Alto Swim Lesson said...

Why is this lesson 4?!? This is a vital part of overcoming fear. A good swimming lesson instructor -- I've found -- will teach you to blow slowly out your nose (and breathe in your mouth). Feel free to ask me a question here . Just a thought. Thanks! -Caleb

Swimator said...

@Palo Alto Swim Lesson - good point. Will move it up. :)

Anonymous said...

what is the technique with mouth? do you swim with your mouth open? i feel pukish when this comes to my mind that people swim and the same water goes in the mouth which travels your other body parts..

Muhammad Ali said...

Excellent article. it is worth giving a shot. i get this problem frequently, so lately i have started to use nose plug. to be honest, i really don't like to use nose plug. if this technique can resolve the issue, i can confidently say bye bye to nose plug :)

waiting for your article on holding water while flipping :)

Swimator said...

@Anonymous: that is a good question regarding swimming with open mouth. I think most people swim with their mouth loosely closed, but you can still swim with your mouth opened if you'd like. There should be a fair amount of sanitation products such as chlorine in the water, so you don't have to worry that it is disgusting. It is definitely much cleaner than swimming in the open water with your mouth opened.

Bob said...

I just tried it and find this technique works fine for me as long as I vertically sink into the water (while my head is in the same position as it is when I stand, my eyes looking straight forward). But when I swim my head axis is horizontal (my eyes looking either upwards or downwards or sideways during turns) water gets into my nose. What can I do?

Swimator said...

@Bob: thanks for sharing your experience. You can try the more advanced technique to solve the water in the nose issue

Stalin said...

Thankyou very much for analytic solution.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this article :) Ive never been able to go under water without holding my nose and now that I have a child and want to teach her how to swim, Id really like to learn this so thanks! My question is, how do you say the k sound while in the water, without keeping your mouth wide open? thanks in advance

Swimator said...

@Anonymous: glad you are teaching your child to swim - very good. You actually do not have to have your mouth closed when you are under water as long as you are not breathing in. Try saying the silent k or t under water with opened mouth (let the water into your mouth, slush it around) etc. :).

Pedro said...

Hi libor, did you finally write the article on the ability to plug your nose during a flip turn or underwater backstroke kick?.

I got here searching in google about a "problem" I have. I can swim and even dive a bit, as long as my nostrils are more or less downwards, but when some water gets inside my nose I feel an intense pain in my nose and my head. Is that normal?

Swimator said...

@Pedro: thanks for your question. Getting water in your nose is sometimes painful, but if it is very very bad, I'd suggest talking with your doctor if there can be some other problem.

To plug your nose in those positions, you can try the human nose plug technique to do what you need to. It works for some, not so much for others, so give it a shot. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm going swimming tomorrow, I've not been able to swim without a mask ever! I really hope this works. Thank you for the article!!!

LaidBak said...

I just don't get it. I cannot hold the back of my tongue in the "k" position and breathe out of my mouth at the same time. Am I interpreting the instructions wrong? Or am I just hopeless?

Swimator said...

@LaidBak: thanks for sharing your frustration. You are interpreting the instructions correctly, except that as you mentioned it is not physically possible to exhale when you try the K exercise. The idea is that when you master not getting water into your nose with the "K" technique, then you slowly release the tongue, while still keeping the water out of your nose. Then you are free to blow bubbles or get water in and out of your mouth without getting water in the nose.

Anonymous said...

I had my adenoids taken out as a kid (don't know why they do this when it's just removing tonsils) but ever since then I was unable to do backflips underwater and such without having a lot of water in my nose (and it burns!!). I'm trying these techniques but it's not helping. Have you ever heard of the removal of adenoids being a problem for swimmers?

Swimator said...

@Anonymous: thanks for your question. I cannot see how removal of adenoids would in any way affect your ability to plug your nose naturally. When you do backflips, you might want to try this human nose clip technique to keep the water out.

Anonymous said...

Is it effective to practice this technique in just a sink or bath? Just dipping your face nose first into the water?

Swimator said...

@Anonymous: I believe it should give you some practice, but ideally, you'd practice in a shallow end of the pool to get the full experience of the surroundings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I enjoy swimming but I always use a mask that covers my nose because I always think that water will go up my nose. With the mask I'm fine in the water, but without the mask I won't put my head under. I'd like to be more confident and not have to rely on the mask all the time.

I can dip my face into a sink so that my eyes and chin are underwater and my nose/throat does not fill with water. Is it safe to say that I can control my soft palate adequately?

I'm starting to think that my problem is more psychological than physical.

Great blog by the way! Thanks.

Swimator said...

@anonymous: thanks for the kind words. I think if you can do it in the sink without issues, it is time to head to the pool and try it there and continue to grow more confident. You are on the right path.

Unknown said...

This really helps, but do you constantly hold your tongue in a "k" position while in the water? How you push a little bit of air out of your nose while doing that?

Swimator said...

@Michelle Boudreau: glad it helps at least a little. The K example is just to help you get started to learn to be under the water. You can of course create some pressure in your nose while pushing out air and this will not let water in, however, you really cannot control the air escaping from your nose, so I'd suggest just doing it enough, so it won't let water in, but it won't also let air out.

Darren said...

Hi. I read your article hoping it would help me but I have a slightly different problem which I wonder if you can advise me on.

Basically I am happy with my swimming and my breathing, but I just bought myself a new pair of googles and now I notice I have water going up my nose! The googles seem fine, but seriously when I wear them I notice a lot of water going up my nose - so now I'm changing my technique to blow it out. If I go back to my old googles I'm fine. I've noticed my new ones have bigger cups/lens over each eye and I'm wondering if the extra air in there - a bigger space - means the water can compact it easier to creep up my nose!! Mad I know... any help appreciated. Darren

Swimator said...

@Darren - thank you for sharing your challenge. Do you have pictures of both goggles? That might help to shed some light on the problem. It is very odd indeed.

Unknown said...

I can hold my breath under the water only too well. It's trying to breath above the water that I have a problem with! I am 69 years old and have always been terrified of being in a pool. I have been taking swimming lessons for the past 2 years and I have now managed to learn to swim. My instructor comes into the water with me and is very supportive and caring. My problem is that I love swimming under the water and can hold my breath for a fair wee while. It's when I come up to the surface that I have a panic attack
and start to hyperventilate. We have no idea why I do this and my teacher is at a loss to help me. I still love being in the water but this problem is holding me back. Any ideas please?

Swimator said...

@Irene Gray, thanks much for sharing your difficulty. It is great that you have found a good instructor, that is half the battle. This is a long shot, but could it be the chemicals in the pool like chlorine (if you are quite sensitive, it can cause shortness of breath). As a another option, I am going to go outside the box a bit here and ask, have you ever tried calming your nerves before you go into the pool with some small amount of distilled liquid :) or a certain substance which is smoked. (won't mention the actual names to not offend anyone :)). I know it sounds as a very stupid and dangerous advice, but maybe it will get the edge of a bit and you will be able to fight through your anxiety. Note: if you try this, it is at your own risk and stay in the shallow end :).

Unknown said...

Thanks a bunch for this advice. If only every swimming instructor was as thoughtfull as you :)

Cheryll T-S said...

I have what may appear to be a silly question after years out of the pool, I want to add swimming to my workout routine, but when I tried to get back in the water to my dismay the discomfort from the burning of the chlorine filled water up my nose was too much. How do you take a breath when using the soft palate technique? Is it after you are making the "n" sound and your face is in the water during freestyle? Do you breathe out of your nose or push air out of your nose face in water while making the "n" sound? I am also going to try the human nose plug technique as it seems you breathe out or push air out while making the grimmace with face in water. Your expertise and advice is appreciated.

Swimator said...

Hi Cheryll, thank you for your question. When your face is in the water during freestyle, you should slowly exhale from your mouth (very slowly), so when you are ready to take your mouth out of the water, you no longer need to exhale, but only spend the time taking a breath. My advice to take a breath would be to make sure your mouth is opened wide, so you can take a big breath and the inhalation would be as if you want to fill your stomach with air (another way to describe it would be as if you just dropped an expensive vase and made that air sucking in noise::). Maybe a bad example. But I'd forget about any letters when taking the breath. Hope this helps.

Mericamedel said...

So I've never been a great swimmer. I can physically make a lengthy deim, but doing it "correctly" with my face in the water has not worked for me. I've tried your methods, and they make complete sense, but I still end up puking water every time. I thought maybe there was a subconscious fear that was holding me back so I started slow, held my face in shower water and practiced there first. It seems that no matter what i do, I end up feeling as if the pressure is too much, Luke the water is forced into my face and down my throat. I've used the exercises you've discussed and even when making these sounds or putting pressure on my soft pallet, I can not keep water from coming in. I am seeing a doctor about the possibility of sever allergies, as I went from running a 2 mile distance in 13 minutes to 18 minutes within 3 months. A new higher altitude is a factor as well as congestion and piping ears, is it safe to assume that this could be a factor in my inability to keep water out? Also don't know if this helps, but I've done a lot of parachute jumps as well, and every time I go up, I get extreme sharp pain in my nose and forehead. I always just toughed it out till I got to a lower altitude, which was usually right before hitting ground 500 feet or so.

Swimator said...

@mericamedel: thank you very much for sharing your story. I am not sure I can be of much help in this matter apart from suggesting you go see a swim instructor who can better evaluate your situation with a hands on approach. In theory everyone should be able to swim without getting choked up on water. Unless there is some structural damage to your nasal area which could cause some of the issues you describe. I am sorry, I could not be of much help. Hope it works out for you and you get to experience the enjoyment of swimming that many do. Good luck.

Natasha said...

I am very excited to try these techniques. I have never been able to go under water without holding my nose with my hand. I bought nose plugs but I have a very sensitive nose so I look like I have been punched in the nose after wearing them. My husband and I were recently in a pool and discussing (again) how I can't hold my breath under water. We both tried everything but water rushes up my nose unless I blow air out pretty hard. I just figured I would never be able to swim properly (I only doggie paddle and have always been a poor swimmer). I've even taken swim lessons trying to figure it out but to avail. I wish I had learned about this before I was 29!

Swimator said...

@Natasha: I am glad you found the article useful. Please do let me know if it worked for you. Good luck.

The Ampelophilosofer! said...

i swam in competitions for 4 years, and got my lifeguards degree and spent 3 years working as a lifeguard, and all these years the only way for me to stop water coming up my nose was by filling my mouth with a huge amount of air, which made me look like a balloon! a couple of years ago i finally gave up and got a nose plug. And all i had to do was pronounce the letter K, and T, and P! i am so grateful for your post! I wish swimming coaches could be more thorough with explaining stuff to their swimmers!!

Anonymous said...

I'm a teenager, and I always get water up my nose. It used to not be a problem when I was younger, but I started swimming with masks a lot and now I've just gotten to used having masks to block water. Now, when I don't use masks, I always resort to holding my nose with my fingers.

Your blog post was very helpful, and I'll try these techniques the next time I swim.


Anonymous said...

What an excellent article. I took swim lessons when I was about 10 years old, and by that time, my fear of going underwater had already taken hold. I literally got sick before every lesson. I was also the oldest in the group, which was pretty embarrassing. Now, at age 30, I'm finding it's really limiting my ability to have fun on the water. I can float comfortably and tread water, but going under is still a daunting task. I am the type of person that needs to understand the science or mechanics behind something before I will give it a try, so I appreciate this discussion quite a bit. Now that I understand the "why behind", I will give this a try and hope for the best! Maybe the next time I go to the lake I won't have to sit on the sidelines as much.

Holdfast said...

Thank for the most helpful swimming advice I have ever read. I was never taught to swim as a child and only learnt a basic breast stroke with my head above water in my early twenties. Now in my seventies, I swim occasionally for exercise, but hate it; I always feel panicky and on the verge of drowning (because of poor breath control?). If I can master your techniques, I am sure my swimming experience will be transformed. I have had swimming instruction, but no one has ever suggested your techniques. Swimming pool, here I come!

Caroline said...

This is an interesting post. I used to love swimming as a child and can't remember having any problems with water up my nose until my teenage years after I had my adenoids removed. This could have been the cause or may have been totally unrelated but it was then that I started to wear a nose clip for swimming. I am now in my 40's and rarely go swimming because I get so frustrated with the pain and the worry of the water going up my nose and I can never relax whilst playing with the kids in holiday pools because of it. I came across this post and so can't wait to try out this technique. Just one question... When I practice the bobbing technique and hold the K consonant to go under the water, do I exhale air whilst still under the water and if so do I do this through my nose or mouth?

Swimator said...

Hi Caroline, glad the article gave you an excuse to go into the water :). I hope it works for you. Try this. While you are reading this comment, hold the silent K and try to exhale through your mouth. It will not be possible :). Now try exhaling through your nose. It is also not possible :). It will feel like you have a build up pressure in your lungs which wants to go out, but cannot :). I hope this helps.

Debbie said...

I Just had to thank you for these tips! I am getting my scuba certification and I was having difficulty with the mask removal skill that is required to pass. I have never swam under water without holding my nose. Even though I was breathing in and out through my mouth with a regulator, a little bit of water was still going in and out of my nose which caused me to choke and freak out. I have since taken my mask off underwater successfully by blocking my nasal tract using the "K" consonant hold. Thank you so much!!

Swimator said...

Hi Debbie, very happy it worked for you. Enjoy your scuba diving adventures. :)

Word said...

I dont understand how i'm supposed to breathe through my mouth while holding my tongue to the roof of my mouth, effectively shutting off my ability to mouth breathe.....

Going swimming again tonight and since this comment is moderated i'll probably be swimming by the time its posted. So answers wont help me, just pointing out the article can be confusing. "Holding the K constant," do I keep saying "Kay" over and over again? As that seems to be the only alternative to holding my tongue in the K position and trying to breathe (impossible).

Thank you,

Swimator said...

Hi Word, thank you for your comment and for pointing out the confusion. You are correct about saying "Kay". When you do that, you will notice you can also let the air out of your lungs.

On the other hand, if the issue is about inhaling, then there is no need to say any letters. Just simply deeply inhale, so your chest rises.

Hope this helped. Anything else, just ask.

PS: Unfortunately, I have to moderate the comments. Too many crazy spammers out there.

Marie said...


Just wanted to say thank you! After 4 months struggling to learn how to breathe while swimming, I think I finally got it, thanks to this post.
As French is my mother tongue, I first looked for info on the Internet in this language, but couldn't find any actual solution to my problem (other than "just blow through your mouth" or "wear a nose clip").
I practised the technique you suggest for quite some time in the shallow water, staying still, and then, when I felt I got it, tried while swimming. It didn't work right away, but the week after, I could, for the very first time, swim from one end of the olympic pool to the other without stopping to cough or catch my breath. Also, maybe this is obvious to some people, but I found it helped to really face the bottom of the pool while exhaling. And I usually hold my breath or finish emptying my lungs through my nose when I lift my head again. Not sure what a swimming coach or a professional would think about that, but I can really swim a long time this way, which I think is a good sign.
Anyway, I think the ideal breath cycle is different for each person and can take a while to figure out, but it's worth the effort. :)

Swimator said...

Hi Marie, thank you very much for sharing your learning story. I applaud you for trying and not giving up. Well done.

Ryan said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! My seven-year-old daughter has been in swimming lessons, and I was embarrassed to discover that she can already swim far better than I: she puts her head underwater, whereas I always awkwardly swim with my head up the whole time.

After reading this, I started practicing, and after only a couple of pool visits, I can swim a good 15-20 meters without my head popping up. You've saved me from permanent embarrassment by a seven-year-old. And though I never cared much for swimming before, now I'm actually starting to enjoy it!

Swimator said...

Hi Ryan, this is so awesome. Thank you for sharing your situation. Made my day to hear you find the advice useful. You will soon find out, swimming is an amazing sport for the mind and for the body. Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks a lot for the explaination..

I learnt swimming 13years ago but I avoided learning freestyle as I hate the water entering my nose. I do swim but never swim freestyle.

However, in April, I wanted to overcome my dislike towards freestyle, so I start learning again. Same thing happen still, water keep entering my nose when I reach to the suface for taking breath. I always need to stop, not because of feeling tired or losing breath but because I cant bear water getting into my lungs.

I came across your blog as I was searching for the reason why water keeps on getting into my nose during freestyle. I guess your article already explain my situation.

Though I dont thoroughly understand the exercises, I will try to practice your suggestion.

Thank you so much.


ManyInterests said...

Thank you so much for this post...but I'm a little confused. I just started learning how to swim about two weeks ago. My last swim lesson, I had to jump in the deep end as somehow I kept getting water in my nose (I wasn't breathing it in) and it would go down my throats and I would choke. I ended up swallowing pool water 4 times this way. Now I am home with a very raw feeling throat and raw feeling, runny nose. I am having so much trouble coordinating my breathing movements while diving, jusmping, flipping, etc. Maybe I just need a TON of practice? I know it's just my second swim lesson but ugh it's awful. I also have a tendency to tense up in the water and freak out a bit. I'm a very cautious, scared type of person. I also probably wouldn't be allowed to wear a nose clip air goggles to cover my nose unfortunately. If anyone has tips for me I'd gladly take them! Thank you for your time!!

Swimator said...

Hi, thank you for your comment. As you said, practice makes perfect, however, you probably should not be jumping into the deep pool on your second swim lesson :). Take it easy and practice going under water while you stand. Slowly and surely, so you can be sure to learn the correct way to close off the air flow and not get water in. Wish you patience and good luck.

ManyInterests said...

Thank you soo much again for the post!! Thank you also for answering me so quickly and giving me encouragement:):)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! This really gives me hope. I'm 37. No one ever formally taught me to swim. Just kind of figured it out from watching others. I grew up near the beach, been to lots of pool parties, and have struggled my entire life with swimming underwater or even putting my face tilted up towards the showerhead without getting water up my nose and choking. Always thought it was an unfortunate anatomical defect or that my nose was just not shaped to adequately keep water out (I have a somewhat short, upturned nose). I remember how my cousins all used to water ski and were so discouraged that wasn't as into it as they were. I wanted to, but I was just fearful of my little issue. And too embarrassed to ever mentioned it to them. I honestly didn't think they'd believe me! But most embarrassing was being demoted during drown-proofing classes at the YMCA with my 5th grade classmates all in attendance. I was the only one from the self-assigned, experienced swimmers group who had to hold their nose. I was told that wasn't normal. So the instructor made me dunk my head without doing that. Of course, I choked and then, in front of everyone, pointed me in the direction of the group of kids with life jackets who could hardly even do the doggie-paddle. I was so mortified and embarrassed because I could swim really well most of the time; just had to hold my nose at other times. So I'll definitely try these exercises. I really hope they help. As cliché as it sounds, I think it'll improve my quality of life. Now, if only I could go back in time too!

Swimator said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are unfortunately not alone who has a bad experience from youth where the swim instructor is just not skilled enough to teach properly. I hope that the exercises help you out. Let me know how it goes and good luck.

Word said...

Forgot to thank you, awesome blog! Finally got the hang of it, guess my issue was something else entirely

Unknown said...

Thank you for giving good advice, and for being kind enough to follow up with answers to the questions that came after. You appear to be someone very dedicated to assisting others be able to overcome problems with swimming, whether for enjoyment or safety. I am in my 50's and never mastered being able to swim without water going up my nose and causing incredible pain. The only saving grace I found was the back float, and that works best if the waters are not choppy enough to splash over my face. I copied your advice to my quicknotes and will try it when I go to the beach again. Thank you!

Bradley said...

I first found and read this some years ago and only within the last month have been able to try the technique listed here.

Let me start out by saying that I'm 33 years old and have only been able to enjoy the water with a nose/goggle mask all my life. My Dad is an excellent swimmer. He tried to teach me when I was a kid, but only continued to tell me to blow air out of my nose like most people will tell you. This does not and has never worked for me. It probably works for 99% of people, but never for me unfortunately.

All my life I've dreamed of being able to swim and enjoy the water properly. I searched for tips and tricks to try again as an adult and found this site. I never heard about the soft palate trick, blocking with the tongue position by holding the "k" sound in stick, for instance. Let me tell you that I was hopeless. Even putting my face towards the shower water and it would shoot up my nose and down my throat.

But guess what... THIS TRICK WORKS. It takes practice, but it works. I was in the pool and not only was able to put my face in the water, I was able to sit down underneath, head facing forward and down with my eyes towards the floor and a minimal amount of water got in. It was no where near as uncomfortable as I remembered from my childhood. I would have a sore throat for hours if I slipped under the surface as a child that's how much water would rush in and down my throat. Now? Even when a bit slips in (due to lack of practice I'd assume) it's so minimal and the discomfort has only lasted me 5 minutes at most (one time and I think I did it wrong that time). It's not painful like it used to be. And the longer I'm in the water the more confident I become until I'm going under and pushing off the wall and coming up in a good 5 seconds. A LONG time for someone like me!

I've only been in the pool and tried this two times since and that's a lot of progress already for me. I told myself to remember to come back to this page and thank you personally, as I never thought in my life that I'd be even close to where I am now. I have confidence for the first time and hope that I'll be able to swim more and more. Thank you!! I feel like I've grown wings and can fly, that's how happy this has made me.