Cook Strait Swim, New Zealand

Friday, October 1, 2010

Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema

Every marathon swimmer and crew should be aware of "swimming induced pulmonary edema." It is a very serious medical problem that can develop while the athlete is swimming. Even the very young, healthy, well -conditioned athlete can experience a sudden onset of pulmonary edema. Research is ongoing. Some swimmers in wetsuits, non-wetsuits, cold water and warm water swims have experienced it. While swimming, the athlete may suddenly experience respiratory distress, shortness of breath, and coughing up frothy pink sputum. Some researchers have seen a correlation of over-hydration prior and during a swim and NOT urinating on a regular basis during the swim. While swimming a marathon event (English Channel), the swimmer and crew must be mindful of the amount of fluid that is being consumed. But more importantly, the swimmer must urinate on a regular basis (every few hours). If the swimmer does not urinate and continues to drink 300+ ml per hour, fluid overload will occur very quickly. This fluid will travel to the lungs and creates pulmonary edema. Immediate medical attention is required. In training, an open water swimmer should be very conscientious about urinating especially after a few hours of swimming. Some open water swimmers have to "stop" to urinate and others will urinate while swimming on the go. Regardless, a swimmer should plan to urinate at least every three hours during a marathon swim. Closely monitoring your intake and output during a marathon swim may help to avoid pulmonary edema.

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