Salt water in lungs, Problem or Annoyance?

I wanted to know if anyone has experienced problems after getting choked on saltwater during a swim? I recently completed my first long swim, after having been a swimmer my whole remembered life, during which I sucked in some serious water at one choppy point during the swim. I was fine for the swim, once I cleared it, but for a few days after the swim if I took more than a shallow breath I had to cough. The cough is gone, but I performed a peak flow test today (blowing as hard as you can on a meter as a part of an exercise test) and I measured in the 10th percentile for my age....after being a swimmer all my life, Division 1 scholarship, not-a-newbie-at-all????? I should be measuring well above the 50th percentile easily. I was so blown away, I didn't even think about the choking incident during my swim 2 weeks ago.

My swim was a 12 miler (or so) and I did pretty well, even after choking. I have never really choked when swimming before, but I got an enormous breath of water and had to work hard to clear it. I had been breathing every 3rd and skipped the breath before when I thought I was clear on 6th stroke, went to breathe and smacked with the chop- all water no air. This happened before the 1/2-way mark and I completed the swim. It wasn't until after the swim that I had minor issues with coughing, which I figured to be from the sucking of water. I have, however, noticed a slight tightness in my chest in the last few days. I have no cardiovascular abnormalities btw...

Just wondering if I could have some lingering issue from aspiration of saltwater (is this a thing or not), and if so, how long to resolve or do I need to do something about it?


  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member

    I have zero medical training however this sounds a bit like Swimming-induced pulmonary edema Yes, it is a thing and can be very serious. A couple links to peruse.

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    I'm not a doctor, but if I had a reduction in my lung capacity/ability to breathe I would definitely get myself some medical treatment.

  • During a masters workout at the beginning of last summer, I attempted to breathe before my mouth completely cleared the water line. As a result, I likely aspirated a small amount of water.

    My body started coughing...and wouldn't stop.... I got out....
    headed to the bushes..... just in case the coughing brought anything else up.

    I continued to cough and bring stuff up for the rest of that day.... slept fine.... but still took it easy the next day or two, especially in the water.

    all this was after consulting with more than one friend/colleague who have actual medical training.
    They gave me the things to look for to send me to urgent care..... and all was well.

    BUT, I agree with MoCo..... don't mess with the lungs!

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    edited October 2019

    I've gotten aspiration pneumonia from getting nailed in the face with a wave while inhaling. Nothing you can do other than rest and wait for the fluid to absorb. But definitely see a doctor to make sure you are ok.

    SIPE is different in that the fluid is coming from your body rather than inhaling the fluid.

    ETA: I am most definitely not a doctor, just someone who has cranky lungs. As I said above, go see a doctor just to make sure you are OK.

  • WaterloggedWaterlogged United StatesMember

    @MoCo said:
    I'm not a doctor, but if I had a reduction in my lung capacity/ability to breathe I would definitely get myself some medical treatment.

    Yes, it was a doctor that measured my peak flow. Oddly, it was two weeks post-sucking-of-water and I didn't think about it at all at the time. Reflecting, it seems to be related and is resolving. Thanks for the input.

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