Post-Swim Shortness of Breath

jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
edited August 2013 in General Discussion
I'm curious to know if anyone experiences shortness of breath (SOB) after a marathon swim. Specifically, the rest of the day having a difficult time taking a full inhalation or having trouble with stairs, lifting objects, etc. Never felt so out of shape in my life than after a long swim! Usually goes away after a good night's sleep though. Any thoughts?


  • sharkbaitzasharkbaitza LondonMember
    without sounding dramatic.. did you perhaps aspirate some water? Not common but does happen. Hopefully not, but not something you want to mess with.. go get it checked out...
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    I have had it that bad a few times after workouts lasting longer than 5 hours, but it was always asthma-related. Sleeping was the only cure because, as my doctor told me, the long swim irritated my lungs and they needed to repair themselves. Have you had a pulmonary work-up done? Maintaining appropriate asthma meds (including corticosteroids) is the only way I avoid it.
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    I've only ever had pool induced asthma, never had a problem in open water. My pool issues were greatly reduced when I started wearing a nose clip. - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    @sharkbaitza interesting insight, I actually did aspirate water on a swim last year and had a much more dramatic version of SOB accompanied by severe wheezing. This time around seemed much less concerning, and I've experienced even milder versions after long swims in the past, but I suppose I could have aspirated some? @rosemarymint that's also a possibility. I did have my lungs checked out last year and they said they looked fine though, but perhaps some form of exercise-induced asthma...hmm
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    I long have exercise induced asthma issues, but they never got real bad until I began endurance sports. Yes poor air quality (pools, bad AQ days) makes things worse. But when I've been working out for many hours, just the increase of breathing hard for such a long time is enough to cause sometimes severe inflammation. I've known several ultra distance triathletes who found they kept getting sick with asthmatic bronchitis after training for/racing multiple ironman races in a year. I don't know how much has been written up on it, but it is, at least, anecdotally, an issue of concern. Regardless of what the issue is, get checked out.
  • I've certainly experienced it with pool swims but I have always attributed that with the high heat and humidity within the pool. Are you experiencing it in open water?
  • troubletrouble San FranciscoMember
    I agree with @rosemarymint! Go back to the doctor.

    Some friends urged me to go to the doctor after we shared a room for a 10K swim in Atlantic City many years back. They reported that while I was sleeping following the swim, my breathing was really odd. I had always been told my lungs were just fine, but I had a pretty severe asthma attack while they were prepping me for the diagnostic tests.

    It seems like it is worth getting it checked again. The problems you're having with stairs and lifting sound all too familiar.
  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    Yes, I only experience this in open water. I should clarify my original post though, this only comes after a long swim (8+ hours) and lasts just that day, from a couple of hours post-swim to until I go to sleep. By the next day, I'm fatigued, but no more SOB. I have a physical soon so I'll ask the doctor and post their thoughts. Thanks!
  • BogdanZBogdanZ Bucharest, RomaniaSenior Member

    I bumped into this article, searching for something else and I don't see the "conclusion".

    Personally, after all my prev 8hrs+ swims open water and not taking water, I had this strange - for normal days breathing, when i feel like not being able to have deep breathing (short breath) as if I have a limited lung capacity. It lasts about 24 hours: the night after the swim and first part of the next day.

    I considered natural given the effort in the swims and type of breathing during swims.
    but as there weren't many reactions with "metoo", on this post, I wonder now if this happens only to few or this is natural for post long ows?

    And this applies to heart bpm also which seems very small in that following day and not willing to increase that much.

    I did not have them post 4-6 hours triathlon or running efforts, maybe because of a dif type of breathing involved.

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    I've experienced this. I believe it was related to muscle fatigue of the intercostals, due to breathing against the water pressure over a long period of time. I've experienced a slight amount of it after racing hard for 5K, but I really noticed it the first time I swam longer than 7 hours. I also have asthma, but it didn't feel the same as a restricted airway, more like what I termed "bellows fatigue."


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

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