Can Sea Swimming reduce Allergy symptoms?



Historically, doctors would recommend their patients to go to the seaside to improve various illnesses. They would issue prescriptions detailing exactly how often, for how long and under what conditions the patients were to be in the water. Using seawater for medical purposes is called thalassotherapy.

There are many health benefits to swimming in the sea. Swimming in sea water can

  • Improve Skin conditions
  • Be used as Hydrotherapy (Cold water therapy)- recurrent cold-water exposure can lead to enhanced function of the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with organ function.
  • Be a Natural Anti-depressant and have positive affects on the brain waves and hormones that influence the brain positively.
  • Reduce allergy, hay fever, sinusitis and other respiratory symptoms.


Allergies are caused by:

  • Things you touch (e.g. latex)
  • Things you inhale (e.g. pollen)
  • Things you eat (e.g. nuts)

The environment by the coast will not have much effect on your food allergies however the salty ocean air may be beneficial for your respiratory or skin allergies.


Benefits of Ocean Air

  • Helps improve lung function
  • Thins mucus
  • Reduce coughing
  • Decrease sinus pressure

The negative ions in the sea air accelerate your ability to absorb oxygen and balance your serotonin levels. Serotonin (the feel good hormone) is chemical produced by your body which is linked with mood and the feelings behind happiness and can make less prone to aniexty. This is why you may feel more alert, energised and relaxed at the beach.




Respiratory Conditions (Asthma)

Those who live by and swim in the sea tend to have healthier respiratory systems as the seawater mimics the body’s own fluids within the lining of the airways. Saltwater can aid and restore the normal clearance of mucus, which is vital for the nose to function properly.

Nasal irrigation, or flushing of the nasal cavity, with salty solutions is used as therapy by people suffering from hay fever, respiratory ailments as well as inflammation and infection of the sinuses.  



Hay Fever

Ocean breezes tend to blow allergens away therefore you may notice a decrease in your hay fever symptoms if near a beach.

Recent studies on the effect of non-drug interventions on hay fever and dust mite allergies suggest that saltwater can help control hay fever by washing away pollen grains that cause nasal allergies that result in hay fever and chronic rhinitis. 




Skin Allergies

It is thought that the high magnesium content and concentrated levels of minerals found naturally in sea water heals damaged skin. Another research study published in the International Journal of Dermatology found that magnesium-rich sea water promoted the retention of moisture in the skin.

Sea water is rich in other mineral salts such as sodium and iodine and clean ocean water is considered an antiseptic, meaning that is also has wound-healing properties.

The British Association of Dermatologists found that sea swimming improves eczema in children when parents introduce it into their exercise routine. A study conducted by the organisation into children with eczema caused by allergies found that sea water baths reduced their symptoms.




Immune System

Cold water activates cold sensors all over our bodies which increase our heart rate and breathing rate. The cold sensors trigger a burst of adrenaline that creates the feel-good factor. When we immerse our bodies in cold water the blood moves very quickly from our extremities (limbs) to our major organs and back again as we warm up.

 A Czech study found that people who immersed themselves in cold water three times a week experienced a significant increase in their white blood cell count. These immune cells are important for fighting off infection. The researchers suggested that the cold-water acts like a mild stressor, activating the immune system and giving it a workout.




Mold/Dust Allergies

Mold is present in humid, damp conditions which can found both at the beach or indoors near the coast. Dust also accumulates in warm temperatures and humid environments so be aware of this if you have these allergies.



Relaxation and Mental Health

Exercising in natural environments has been shown to have greater benefits for mental health than exercising anywhere else. This is because it combines the benefits of exercise with the restorative effects of being in nature. Being close to nature is important for us as suggested as one of the key ideas in the book ‘Lost Connections’. Studies have shown that people who live in greener areas are generally less stressed, because immersion in nature reduces obsessive thoughts and boosts concentration.



After experiencing the positive effects of swimming in the sea and breathing in the salty sea air myself, I personally felt my airways were much clearer and I could breathe easier. I am definitely going to try to make my trips to the beach more frequent and brave the cold water no matter what the weather!

Ultimately, ocean swimming and trips to the beach may not only be for your enjoyment but are also very beneficial for your health.



**It’s important to recognise that many people have different respiratory conditions and different levels of asthma so what works for one person may not necessarily work for another but if you have any experiences with salt therapy, I would love to hear them in the comments below.


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