Swimming Nose Clips – Advantages and Drawbacks

Swimming nose clips are little devices made of bent wire padded with rubber. They are designed to keep the water out of your nose.

To do so, you stick the device on your nose and it pinches your nostrils together.

A basic nose clip with a wired frame and latex padding
A simple nose clip with a wired frame and latex padding

Why Use a Nose Clip?

If you are a beginner, there are so many things to think about and get right.

Breathing is yet another component of swimming technique you have to master, especially in the front crawl.

So the temptation is great to buy a nose clip to at least keep water out of your nose.

But is using a nose clip a good idea?

Nose Clip Pros

I took up swimming again as an adult in my thirties.

A nose clip was one of the first swimming accessories I bought besides the mandatory swimsuit, swimming goggles and a swim cap.

I used it extensively before I weaned myself off of it after about a year of swimming.

So let’s have a look at the advantages which using a nose clip brings:

1) When you learn front crawl, it avoids that water enters your nose when you turn your head to breathe.

So you only have to focus on your mouth while breathing.

2) When you learn backstroke, it prevents the water from entering the nose if you lack balance (and the head submerges), or if water is projected in your face by the recovering arm.

3) To learn or improve your butterfly stroke, you may have to do body undulations and dolphin kicks on the back.

In that case, it may nearly be impossible to keep water out of your nose without using a clip.

4) When you learn the flip turn, it allows you to learn the correct flip motion first without worrying about breathing.

Later on, you can remove the clip and practice correct exhalation during the flip.

5) If your nose is allergic to pool chemicals (e.g. chlorine), a clip might be the solution to keep those chemicals out.

6) There exists a killer amoeba that lives in certain warm bodies of water and enters the human body through the nose.

From the nose, it migrates to the brain and literally eats it alive!

As you might guess, this is a dangerous medical condition. Luckily infections by this amoeba are rare.

Nevertheless, you might wear a nose clip as a precaution when you swim in bodies of water that might be infected.

Nose Clip Cons

You will rarely see an experienced swimmer use a nose clip, except for specific exercises that demand it or in the case of an allergy.

That’s because using it also has its drawbacks:

1) Breathing is less efficient because the nose is shut down and the overall physical efficiency in the water decreases.

2) You are more inclined to hold your breath if you wear a nose plug.

Holding your breath should be avoided as it is better to exhale continuously in the water because it keeps the body more relaxed and the stroke more fluid.

3) Water might become trapped in the nose and generate snot that can’t be evacuated.

That certainly was the case for me, and additionally, my nose was regularly obstructed after a training if I had used a nose clip.

4) When I started to wean myself off the nose clip after about a year of swim practice, I had the problem that water entered my nose when I turned the head to breathe.

It seems that wearing the nose clip all the time, I had gotten into the habit of swimming with a too low head position.

This in turn caused the breathing problem mentioned above. So this was a bad habit I acquired which took some time to shed.

Conclusion

A nose clip is an excellent piece of gear for beginners, as it makes breathing easier while learning how to swim.

It makes especially sense when learning front crawl or backstroke.

However, once you become more proficient in your swimming abilities, you should try to wean yourself off the nose clip, and only use it under special circumstances.

35 thoughts on “Swimming Nose Clips – Advantages and Drawbacks”

  1. Even though I’m far from being a beginner, I have a problem with the wall rotation as water sometimes gets into nose->head which is very painful.

    Is there a technique to avoid this for swimming without the clips?

    Thanks.

    1. Yes, you need to exhale through the nose at the right moment during the flip turn.

      Before the turn you need to ensure that you still have enough air in the lungs and then it’s a matter of finding the right timing for the exhale.

      1. I thought so, but it doesn’t always work…

        Thanks for the advice, I’ll be working on the flip with the exhale.

  2. Roger Greenwell

    Before wearing a nose clip I used to suffer from severe, and almost constant rhinitis after training – now runny noses are a thing of the past….. and I’ve made a nice saving in tissues.

  3. Aubrey Nichole Miller

    I keep getting it stuck up my nose and getting migraines from it. So I’ll be investing in one soon.

  4. I’m allergic to Chlorine and so I’d rather not have it up my nose.

    At least I’ll be able to scrub it off my skin and not worry about it up my nose.

  5. I have no problem with my breathing. In fact, I exhale more air through my mouth than my nose, and no problem with flip turns.

    I enjoy swimming not for the competitive side although I do a few ocean swims.

    1. Hi Karen, I have no problem, I swim 2.5 km every second day, not as much as some people but still a reasonable distance.

  6. I don’t do flip turns. I am an age group triathlete for 7 years now and I want badly to get rid of the nose clip.

    I will try, guys!

  7. Tamara Thibodeau

    I’ve had multiple sinus surgeries and repeat sinus infections.

    My doctor said if I’m going to continue swimming, I must use a clip because I’m too prone to infections (even in a chlorinated pool).

    Plus surgeries can affect how well you can control the airflow out of your nose.

    So it’s clips for life for me, it’s just a case of finding the most comfortable kind that will completely close my nostrils (mine are wide).

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Tamara,

      Sorry, I don’t have a suggestion here. I only have experience with regular nose clips.

      Maybe someone will jump in here and provide an answer?

  8. Kraig Mohinney

    The only way water “goes up the nose” is if a swimmer is a clumsy breather.

    Water does touch the inside of the nose, and that is the reason for people who are allergic to chlorine or afraid of amoebas or who had recent surgery to wear a clip.

    But aside from those groups, there is no real reason to wear a clip when swimming.

      1. Dennis L Hinckley

        Then why do you see so many Olympic swimmers wearing nose plugs? Do you think they are clumsy breathers, or beginner swimmers?

        I swam all my life, high school swim team, professional fish collector, gold dredger, etc.

        I find it best to have the nose plugged when I use a snorkel with goggles.

        1. Hi Dennis,

          I think you wanted to reply to Kraig? My point of view is that beginners shouldn’t be afraid to use a clip if it helps while learning to swim, hence my comment.

          Later on, it is best to get rid of it, but I understand that there are circumstances where a nose clip makes sense even if you are an experienced swimmer.

          For example, a friend of mine can only use a snorkel with a nose clip. On the other hand, I don’t need to use a nose clip with my swim snorkel.

          I think it also depends on the anatomy of one’s nose.

  9. Debbi Fig Head

    Thank you. I am just starting to swim at LA Fitness across from my house so I appreciate a place I’ll be able to visit to advance my skills once I learn & practice the basics.

    I need to build up my endurance – so I’ll be switching from spinning, elliptical, swimming & walking.

    I had a pretty serious TBI 35 years ago at 21 and think swimming is a good addition to my other activities!

  10. Katie Marie Dash

    I am an almost-senior citizen and have had to wear nose plugs all my life in spite of LOVING to swim.

    No, I was never a competitive swimmer, but I have been a regular swimmer for exercise and pleasure from an early age.

    Only those who, like me, have tried and tried to “learn” to swim without nose plugs but still experience intolerable pain in our nose without them can understand.

    No, we aren’t “babies” — about pain or anything else. Yes, we have tried NUMEROUS times to “learn” to go without nose plugs. No, we can’t do it.

    I can’t speak for everyone, but in my case, I also experience pain when I get water in my nose IN THE SHOWER — which has far fewer chemicals than pool water has.

    But, it’s not just the chemicals. I can’t swim in lake water or ocean water or any other “natural” water without nose plugs either.

    I envy everyone who doesn’t have this limitation and can swim where they want and when they want without worrying about having nose plugs handy.

    So please don’t scold anyone who is unable to swim without nose plugs or pressure anyone to give them up before they are ready — if ever.

    I went through that throughout my childhood. It stood in the way of my learning to swim and fully enjoying the water when I desperately wanted to but couldn’t without something to plug my nose.

    When I finally learned about nose plugs and was able to obtain some, it changed my life in regard to swimming.

    1. Hi Katie Marie,

      Could it be that you get water in your sinuses when you swim without a nose clip?

      I read somewhere that a small percentage of the population has this problem where they can’t keep the water out of their sinuses due to their nose’s anatomy.

      So yes, by all means, keep using a nose clip. It’s better to swim with a nose clip than to not swim at all!

    2. Thank you for this.

      At 66 I have been learning freestyle in order to deal with a neck problem and struggling with breathing.

      I was warned to not use a nose clip but was having problems because of past surgery to nose & soft palette.

      I now feel it is OK to use one!

  11. I have always enjoyed swimming, though never competitively.

    Several years ago, I developed a serious sensitivity to chlorine. No medicine helped as it was not an allergy in the usual sense but actually toxicity.

    It was so bad that I could not even walk through a swimming pool area without a bad reaction.

    After four years of no swimming, I was finally able to return to chlorinated pools with the aid of a nose plug and goggles.

    They are absolutely necessary to me, as they might be to others.

  12. Jesus, that amoeba is terrifying!!!

    I think I am very likely going to have to buy a nose clip now before I go swimming in not very chlorinated outdoor pools in this very hot country I am visiting!

    Just how rare is rare? Somethings I would prefer not to know about!

    I think I tried a nose clip before once in a UK pool and hated it…

    I am not going to look forward to using one, but if the choice is that or a brain-eating amoeba risk, I don’t think I have much choice!

  13. Princess Pat

    I LOVE swimming and always have. But for some reason I never learned how to breathe without holding my nose closed, I tried millions of times to teach myself from articles online, but it never worked.

    I’ve taught myself how to win swim races, backstroke, breaststroke, handstand, flip and dive with only one arm.

    So when I wear a nose clip OH MY GOODNESS it is the best thing in life, the only CON is that it hurts my nose!

    Unless I haven’t bought the nice ones with cushion …?

      1. Thomas Power

        Yes, I have to agree. I have a big Italian style wood on my head.

        Unfortunately, no nose clip I know can keep it closed.

        It probably depends on the application too, because breathing is maybe more difficult with the nose clip.

        This could lead to possible drowning if you’re just using your mouth.

  14. Margaret Cressy

    I am not a strong swimmer but have recently taken it up at my gym as a good form of exercise for an older person.

    However, after managing 20 lengths of the pool yesterday I have suffered a severe reaction which came on a few hours later. A runny nose, sneezing and a feeling of a cold.

    Are there different qualities in these nose clips e.g. a dearer one is more comfortable than a cheap one.

    Is it possible to build an immunity to this problem? I would hate to give up an exercise I find enjoyable.

    1. Margaret,

      I had a similar problem when I began swimming again in my thirties.

      My nose would become clogged while swimming, and it would last for a few hours after the training.

      However, I didn’t have a feeling of cold.

      It was an inconvenience, but it didn’t stop me from swimming.

      After about a year of improving my swimming technique, I was able to get rid of the clip…

  15. Hi,

    I am a beginner and I have learned to swim just about two weeks ago. I swim with a nose clip but I’m trying to not use it all the same time.

    I swim without a nose clip too but I have a problem in that I can’t swim more than 50 meters, after that, I will not be able to hold my breath under the water, and I am just trying to gasp for breath.

    What suggestions do you have to solve this?

      1. I recently started practicing freestyle. I was breathing out through the nose, and was not aware of any water entering up the nose.

        Afterwards I had a streaming nose for 36 hours, etc. Would a nose clip prevent this?

        1. Jan, this is hard to say. A nose clip will certainly reduce the amount of water entering the nose, but will not completely prevent it.

          When I was using a nose clip, I had a runny nose after swimming, the reason for this is explained in the article. This problem subsided once I got rid of the nose clip.

          Your mileage may vary, so the best would be to experiment what works best for you.

          Good luck.

  16. One condition not mentioned: Deviated septum.

    In my case, my septum acts like a check-valve: Water goes in, but I can’t blow it out, so it accumulates in my sinuses.

    I’m exclusively an open-water (ocean and bay) endurance swimmer (and triathlete), so it’s normal to occasionally get a wave in the face when breathing.

    I can close my mouth easily enough, but I can’t close my nose!

    I’ve tried to get my deviated septum fixed, but my insurance classifies it as “elective” treatment that I’d have to pay for out-of-pocket. Nose clips are far cheaper.

  17. Chuck barton

    I had a comment/question. First a disclaimer, I am 77 and trying to improve my swimming.

    I am training a lot with a swim snorkel, and when I swim a fair distance, say even just a quarter or half a mile, I tend to be breathing like I was jogging since the nose clip allows evenly spaced inhale and exhale.

    I am trying to build up longer distance without the clip where I can do shorter inhale and more prolonged exhale.

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