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open water sickness

I'm hoping someone will shed some light on this....

I have swam in a lake 4 times now. Im not a good swimmer and not the bravest, but have surprised myself in the lake by feeling fine apart from one thing.......feeling light-headed and dizzy. Why???

Im fully relaxed and only need to swim about 100m for this feeling to occur. My wetsuit is good and keeps me buoyant and warm. I really dont know what to do. Its a kind of sea-sickness feeling which continues after I get out too. (I actually was sick last week)

Any help gratefully received as I have my 1st two OW tri's coming up. I may try travel sickness pills next time.
Thanks x


  • Does your cap cover your ears ? I believe this affects balance. I know it sounds unlikely but you never know.
  • Bucko75Bucko75 Posts: 47
    I read somewhere about cold watter getting into your inner ear which subsequently affects your balance......try some ear plugs and pull your cap down to keep them secure. I've started using them, not for balance problems but because it takes me hours to get the water out of my ears
  • Thanks for your replies.
    Yes I think my swim hat covers my ears.
    I have just ordered some ear plugs so I hope they help.
  • Try wearing to hats. I found that i felt light headed and dizzy because head was cold. Much better with two hats.
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    How about the way you are swimming? I think excessive body roll is likely to make you feel dizzy.
    The first few times I swam OW I was understandably nervous - can't see the bottom, away from the shore, etc. So I was really rolling to make sure my face was clear of the water and I was getting good breaths in, and breathing one on side only whereas in the pool I breathe on both sides. I think this meant that I was rolling around a lot, which made me dizzy. I'm not suggesting that you must breathe on both sides - decide that for yourself, though it's a good skill to have, and when I race I mix the breathing up, depending on how hard I'm going, how much water is flying around, whether I have just been punched... etc.
    Are you dizzy in the water or when you get out?
  • Ok, I have been wearing 2 hats, then removed one yesterday in case that could've been the problem. Also was wearing different goggles and reverted back to my old ones yesterday, still no difference.
    I breathe both sides sometimes and one side sometimes...no different to pool.
    Im not the best at body rolling but I guess if I cant see the bottom then it could have something to do with balance.
    Im so light-headed when Im swimming and when I stop (I feel the need to hold a buoy in case I faint!!!!)
    I have high BP which is controlled by tablets...whether thats relevant I have no idea!
    Drs appointment has been made for wed but dont hold out much hope for an answer there :roll: .
    Im willing to try anything to make things better because I actually like swimming OW!
  • Perhaps I could try ear plugs and 3 hats!!
  • wyno70wyno70 Posts: 189
    Only experienced this once myself and it was early in the season in cold water and was closely followed by a rather nasty ear infection.

    so get the doc to check your ears out.

    I've worn earplugs and a cap since and haven't experienced it again.

    Good luck.
  • matt333matt333 Posts: 32
    I get this at the start of every season when I do my 1st few open water swims, it then goes away after a few swims so I guess in my case it's some ting to do with the cold..

  • I hope it is just a cold thing...........
  • Well after wearing ear plugs and taking a travel sickness tablet, I was fine today and even swam a full 750m circuit!
    No signs of dizziness at all. The tablet has made me really sleepy now though, so I'll take half next time!
    Hope this may be useful to anyone who has a similar problem
  • Has anyone got any further advice or experiences on motion sickness whilst sea swimming?
  • AvoneerAvoneer Posts: 174
    I get it really bad when I don't wear ear plugs - that's the key.
    A tiny bit of cold water in my ear sends me dizzy and makes me feel sick.
    Hope that helps - I never swim without them now and don't have any problems.
  • AvoneerAvoneer Posts: 174
    Hi Mate,
    Any update on this?
  • I have come to the conclusion my motion sickness is also due to cold water in my ears. After trying various solutions I found this product http://www.swimstop.co.uk/ear_band-it.html This product combined with a travel sickness tablet works for me - it works really well keeping all water out. I got through the IM Wales swim without any problems.
  • Hi Guys

    Sorry been busy this season and not on for a while and just noticed this.

    I get this and for a fact it is motion sickness. I cannot do mix up rides (at theme parks) i cannot read in the car etc and swimming open water does gives the same effect.

    i use half a tablet and it works just fine. If you speak to a pharmasist they have differant tablets behind the counter. Also tried the pressure point wrist bands under my suit and not sure if worked.

    Tony........you dont want to swim behind me.......neville

    master of the breath, puke, stroke
  • I went OW swimming this evening for the first time and despite a lot of research re Tri's and equipment nowhere mentioned this motion sickness feeling which I experienced.  I have now found this info, so thank you!  Does anyone know if you were to wear an ear band, to keep the ear plugs in place more so than the swim hat does, would that fit over your swim hat?  Meaning that you would have ear plugs in, goggles on, swim hat on, and then the ear band?!  Starting to be more than an evening out!

  • risris Posts: 1,002
    Not had the problem myself but I'd assume the band goes in after the plugs but before the hat and goggles. Or try it a few ways and see what works best for you!
  • jhainsjhains Posts: 2

    It sounds like you're very sensitive to motion sickness. The cold water issue is caloric vertigo. It only has an effect if one outer ear has been cooled rapidly compared to the other. Otherwise it is simply motion sickness. Trying to block your ears up only risks more problems should one ear get a soaking and the other one doesn't. I had a caloric vertigo episode while diving and nearly drowned. Not a good day and ever since I have made sure both ears can cool at the same rate. If you are simply sensitive then tablets will help although it doesn't seem like a long term solution.  Lack of a visual reference will make your motion sickness worse. Try sighting more and concentrate on the horizon. Swim with a buddy - always - and desensitise your inner ears. 

  • can anyone give any recommendations on how to handle Sea water, do you just get use to it, it really effected my swim in my first tri when it went into my mouth


  • It took me couple of years to get used to the sea and to adjust the stroke to swallow less water. I used to to in all conditions and just play and experiment with a stroke. Finis metronome with the reasonably heigh stroke count (76-80) was a beginning of the breakthrough. When whatever happens around you have to match the beep you stop worrying about waves (and occasional sip of the water).

    The next was to develop a front quadruple freestyle and still have a reasonably height stroke rate - in general that means that my front arm in at the front when I breath. You also need to practice different breathing patterns in the pool (3-3, 5-5, 2-3-2, 2-2 BOTH SIDES!). Sea is unpredictable and you need to extremely flexible with your breathing patterns depending on the waves.

    But the most important and the first thing to do is to be sure that you are not lifting your head while taking air. You can ask somebody to check this (the self check is that the bottom goggle has to be in the water).

    Think what will happen if you lift the top of your head? Yes, the body balance will change and the legs will likely to go down. But more importantly, your mouth actually will get closer to the water so the chance to take some water in will increase. Instead of clearing goggles think that you want to get your chin out (you kind of have to twist your neck a bit as if you are doing a neck stretch )

    On a positive side, if you master a sea swim - you'll be able to swim anywhere! Happy swimming

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