Swimming Nose Clips – Advantages and Disadvantages

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 Advantages

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 Disadvantages

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.

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42 thoughts on “Swimming Nose Clips – Advantages and Disadvantages”

  1. Avatar

    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. Avatar

      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. Avatar

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

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

  2. Avatar

    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. Avatar
    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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

      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. Avatar

    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. Avatar
    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. Christophe

      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. Avatar
    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. Avatar
        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. Christophe

          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. Avatar
    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. Avatar
    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. Christophe

      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. Avatar

      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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

        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.

      2. Avatar

        Nose clips slip if you breathe out through the nose unconsciously. This happens more frequently when you are getting tired and running out of air.

  14. Avatar

    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. Christophe

      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…

    2. Avatar

      I’ve tried to breathe through my nose, but I cannot get air to move through my nose let alone make bubbles. I feel like I have a stuffy nose and can’t blow anything out. Is there a trick to get air to flow out your nose while under water?

      1. Christophe

        Hi Rosie,

        There is not really a trick. If you can exhale above water through your nose while keeping your mouth shut, you should be able to do the same underwater.

        Now, if you have trouble breathing through your nose above water, I can see that the pressure of the water could make blowing bubbles underwater difficult.

        Additionally, exhaling through the nose is not an absolute must, but it allows for a more relaxed swimming experience if you are able to do so.

        Best,

        Christophe

  15. Avatar

    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. Avatar

        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. Christophe

          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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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.

  18. Avatar

    I am claustrophobic and my head inside the water gives me the feeling of being trapped and I tend to panic.

    I found that the nose clip helped me feel in control of the situation, like some sort of grounding. Now I can swim and love doing it.

    I am certainly a good swimmer, have been for years, not a beginner, but cannot do it without clips. It’s exhausting when people mock my lack of technique, judging just by the clip…

    Only when they see the actual swimming, they say “you could lose the clips, you swim alright” …geez! Brilliant idea! Never thought about that before…

  19. Avatar

    I’ve been taking a little breather for the past few months, but before that, I was swimming about 8 miles a week, 1.5 miles each session. I originally bought a Speedo clip, which popped off and sank during first use. I retrieved it, but did not use it again. Actually, the case is great for my earplugs (I’m prone to Swimmer’s Ear). I seldom breathe through my nose in the pool, and yet, I still get chlorine-related sniffles. Just picked up a Barracuda clip, and will give it a go. Surprised that new clips don’t have a band attached. Don’t believe the clips are necessarily only for beginners, especially if one has a sensitivity to chlorine.

  20. Avatar

    “If you lack balance”

    I’ve always loved being underwater and despite this fact I lack balance. Learnt to swim at the age of 5, was always diving down in the pool. So no, it cannot be “because you learnt to swim as an adult”. However, I do not remember whether I had this ability as a kid or not, as I stopped swimming during my teenage years and returned to swimming in the beginning of my twenties. When I started swimming again the closure of the soft palate came as a reflex when swimming underwater, but it does not generate enough pressure in my nose to avoid flooding my sinuses face-up underwater.

    How is balance triggered? I’ve been practicing to find balance for 6 months and I managed to find balance only once in my life, motionless face-up underwater, after two weeks of practice and never again after that. I also had a deviated septum and nasal polyps, and had a surgery for both of them JUST FOR this ability. I went to a mind control course where I learnt to meditate, visualize and make positive self-suggestions for this ability to evolve, and went to a breathing course in which I learnt to exhale through my nose super slightly by learning to control the intercostals and the lower diaphragm… Yet I still have no balance. Whenever I try to find balance, I fail. No matter how I try. Submerge face-up and stopping the bubble stream or go underwater and turn on my back and trying to push just enough air, or submerging my face backwards underwater without bubbling or doing somersaults underwater in super slow motion…

    Can somebody tell me what is going on, because everyone who practices balance, finds it in an hour or a week and after finding it, he has the control of it forever. I’m not speaking about professional swimmers, I’m speaking about completely regular people who hit the water 10 times a year during summer, when they are on holiday and they can’t even swim all styles…

    I’m an exception for both being unsuccessful despite a lot of practice and being unable to find balance again despite finding it once.

    Some help would be greatly appreciated here. I read a comment here about being a clumsy breather for this, which hurt me very much as I feel like I’ve done everything for this ability. Everything.

    1. Christophe

      Hi Andrew,

      I can’t comment on the medical issues you have encountered, but I know that some people can’t keep water out of their sinuses because of their morphology.

      It also seems you try to obtain balance by trying to just float in the water without moving your limbs. Again, this is a capacity that certain people have, based on their morphology, while other people don’t have this capacity.

      In my case, I can easily control the amount of /level of the water in my nose with my breath, but on the other hand, I can’t keep my horizontal balance without some flutter kicking.

      So what I want to say is that achieving balance without moving your limbs is not a prerequisite to being able to swim well, and using a nose clip is an acceptable way of keeping water out of your nose/sinuses, if you can’t achieve this without a clip.

      I hope this helps.

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