Going Underwater Without Holding Your Nose

My question is about going underwater without holding your nose. My 4 year old twins took swimming lessons last summer and can jump into the pool without holding their nose. This is something I've never been able to do. Water always goes up my nose and into my sinuses. I've tried blowing out of my nose when I first go under, slow submersion and no matter what I still wind up with water creeping down the back of my throat. Am I doing something wrong or should I assume there is something wrong with my sinuses and nose connection lol. Your input would be greatly appreciated. I want to swim with my kids without a nose clamp. I feel silly with it.


Thanks for getting in touch. Your problem is all too common in adults. I see it all the time - adults going underwater and having to hold their noses. I don’t blame you for not wanting to wear a nose clip!

Please forgive me for asking what is probably an obvious question, but are you actually holding your breath? Are you taking a deep breath and then stopping yourself from breathing whilst you submerge?

The reason I ask it that the only way water can enter your nose and sinuses, when you are upright in the pool, is if you breathe it up there. It is possible to think you are holding your breath when you are actually still breathing.

Before you strike me down for asking stupid questions, consider this:

Your nose and sinuses contain air. The only way in and out of your body for that air is through your mouth or nose. Assuming your mouth is closed, as you submerge, the water causes an airlock in your nose. In other words, the water is stopping the air from getting out and the air is stopping the water from getting in.

Imagine an empty bottle turned upside down and then submerged. The air in the bottle has nowhere to go and it is preventing the water from entering it. The only way water enters the bottle is when the bottle is returned the right way up with the opening at the top. Water forces the air out and fills the bottle.

Swimmers experience water in their nose when they try to perform forward somersaults or flip turns because they are momentarily turned upside down, allowing air to escape and water to get it.

In your case, you could be unconsciously breathing in as your nose gets wet. Yes, your nostrils and just inside your nose will get wet, but not enough to completely flood your sinuses and back of your throat. Sometimes that feeling and sensation of getting water on the face can trigger a breathing response. It is quite common.

I guess the only way to find out is to practice holding your breath. Have contests with your kids to see who can hold their breath the longest - not in the pool, just generally anywhere. Then take your contest to the pool and try it there. Take a deep breath and then submerge just your mouth and nose, nothing else. Keep your eyes out. You remain in an upright position with air an airlock in your nose (remember the empty bottle), and no water should enter your nose at all.

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