HomeHEALTHSwimmers face a little-known danger: fluid on the lungs

Swimmers face a little-known danger: fluid on the lungs

by Dennis Thompson

healthday reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The swimmer was struggling to breathe and was coughing up blood.

A keen competitive long-distance swimmer and triathlete, the woman was fit and healthy when she started her night-time open water swim event.

But a few weeks ago, she had breathing difficulties during another open water swim, which forced her to abandon the event. She felt breathless for days afterward.

The woman, in her 50s, had fallen victim to a condition known as a danger associated with open water swimming – fluid on the lungs, or pulmonary edema.

Open-water swimming has become very popular, but growing evidence points to a link between the activity and a condition called swimming-induced pulmonary edema (SIPE), according to Dr James Oldman, lead author of a study published on 9 January . BMJ Case Reports,

Oldman is a cardiologist at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust in the UK

First reported in 1989, SIPE leaves swimmers struggling to breathe as fluid accumulates in the air sacs of the lungs. It affects an estimated 1% to 2% of open-water swimmers, but cases are likely underreported, Oldman and his colleagues wrote.

Older age, long distance, cold water, female gender, high blood pressure and heart disease are among the risk factors for SIPE, the researchers said. However, it also often occurs in people who are in good shape.

Researchers said the water temperature for the woman’s incident was about 62 degrees Fahrenheit, but she was wearing a wetsuit. Still, his symptoms started after swimming about 300 yards.

He was taken to the hospital, where a chest X-ray revealed pulmonary edema. Worse, fluid has infiltrated the heart muscle, a condition called myocardial edema.

However, the woman was lucky. Her symptoms improved within two hours of arriving at the hospital and she was discharged the next morning.

Recurrence of SIPE is common, and has been reported in 13% to 22% of scuba divers and swimmers — suggesting that some people are predisposed to the condition, the researchers said.

No one is sure what causes SIPE, but it is likely due to increased blood pressure in the lungs, higher blood flow during physical exertion and constricting blood vessels due to cold weather, the researchers said.

Researchers recommend people with SIPE to go for a slow swim with other people in warm water. To further reduce their risk, these swimmers should avoid tight-fitting wetsuits and should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Those experiencing symptoms for the first time should immediately stop swimming and get out of the water. Sit up straight, and call for medical help if symptoms persist.

more information

Mayo Clinic has more about pulmonary edema.

source: BMJNews Release, January 9, 2022

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