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Can You Get Sick From Snorkeling?

Snorkeling involves swimming with a breathing tube and mask over your face in a body of water. If you are predisposed to water-borne infections, then you should take precautions before heading into the water. Motion sickness and vertigo are two of the most common ailments to affect snorkelers.

You can get sick from snorkeling, but most of the illnesses you can get while snorkeling are minor ailments like seasickness, dizziness, rashes, and ear infections. The more severe sicknesses such as lung and eye infections are easily treated by a medical professional.

As with most outdoor sports, there is a risk of contracting an illness and becoming sick when snorkeling. People with health concerns like heart or lung issues or who are prone to panic attacks or seizures should always consult a health professional before attempting snorkeling.

What Sickness Can I Get From Snorkeling?

Snorkeling is a water sport which means that certain people could be prone to ear and eye infections, or even lung infections if they are predisposed to them. If you are snorkeling in contaminated water, you could catch nasty infections from bacteria living in the water.

These are some of the more common sicknesses experienced by snorkelers.

Motion Sickness When Snorkeling

Many people who do not experience motion sickness while traveling in a car or a boat can and will often experience motion sickness or sea sickness when in the water. This is because the brain receives conflicting signals from the eye and the inner ear, causing confusion.

Mixed signals to the brain result in you feeling sick. With most snorkelers, the sick feelings only last a short while once they are back on dry ground, but others can experience symptoms for a few days and require medical attention.

The best way to treat motion sickness is to stop snorkeling and focus on something solid, either the land, a boat, or even another swimmer. If you can, leave the water immediately. Generally, motion sickness only lasts as long as the motion lasts.

The best way to prevent motion sickness is by taking medication prescribed by your doctor or using natural remedies.

Dizziness And Nausea While Snorkeling

Vertigo is associate with the inner ear. It can affect your balance and make you feel like the world is spinning. Nausea, vomiting, and dizziness are associated symptoms of vertigo.

People who suffer from vertigo could have undiagnosed ear infections or could simply be affected by pressure changes in the water. The inner ear can become disoriented by the tides and currents in the water affecting your balance and causing dizziness and nausea.

If you do have a sudden onset of nausea or dizziness while in the water, leave the water immediately

Snorkeling Induced Pulmonary Edema (IPE)

Snorkeling-induced pulmonary edema attacks the lungs during times of heavy exertion in cold water. Characterized by shortness of breath and coughing, IPE is caused by excess fluid in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. This affliction can be fatal, so seek urgent medical advice immediately when symptoms appear.

What Infections Can I Get From Snorkeling?

Being in cold water for a prolonged amount of time can cause some physical problems. Sometimes snorkeling in rivers and murky bodies of water can make you sick as they can be contaminated. Snorkeling in salt water can help to heal and clean any wound if it is a bacterial infection.

Cover up any open wounds on your body to prevent any bacteria from entering and causing infections, whether a small cut or a wound with stitches. There is always the risk of re-damaging your injury by scratching it on rocks, debris, or plants in the water.

These are some of the infections that you could get after snorkeling.

  • Swimmers ear, inflammation of the external ear canal, or moisture in the ear is the most common ear infection that affects people who spend a lot of time in the water. Over-the-counter drops can be applied before you go into the water, but you will need to see a doctor for antibiotics if you do develop a severe infection.
  • Algae growing in oceans and freshwater can be dangerous to your health. You should always stay away from any bodies of water with floating foam or scum. Symptoms could include diarrhea and a rash. Always consult a doctor for antibiotics.
  • Swimmer’s itch or cercarial dermatitis is a rash that you can get from snorkeling in fresh or saltwater caused by a tiny parasite that infects snails. Stay away from shallow areas near the shore where snails live. Shower immediately after your leave water to wash of any parasites.
  • Coral dermatitis is an infection caused by fire coral stings in the ocean. If you do develop a reaction, treat with hydrocortisone cream or see a doctor if the rash does not disappear.
  • Eye infections are common amongst snorkelers, especially if they share masks or hire them from a tour operator. Conjuncitivus is highly contagious, so ensure that you rinse your mask in clean water before and after use. Eye drops are effective in the treatment of most eye infections.
  • Sinus infections will affect people who already have or are developing a sinus infection before heading into the water. Some people with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to sinus infections and should be wary of snorkeling in the ocean. Pressure on your sinus canal can cause a blockage leading to the growth of bacteria, causing an infection.

Tips To Prevent Snorkeling Sicknesses

By taking precautions before you head into the water, you can prevent many sicknesses. Try these remedies before heading into the water.

  • Use eye, ear, and nose drops to prevent infections. If you are taking prescribed medications or suffer from any health problems, always check with your doctor before taking any seasickness tablets or eye or ear drops.
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before snorkeling.
  • Drink lots of clean water and keep hydrated.
  • Eat ginger cookies or sweets to calm the stomach and prevent nausea.
  • Mint is another natural stomach-settling treatment.
  • Green apples have a high pectin content which slows down digestion and settles the stomach.
  • Eat chocolate. Chocolate is delicious and is known to be an effective seasickness remedy!


Snorkeling is an enjoyable, healthy pastime. If you do suffer from motion or sea sickness or are predisposed to eye and ear infections, then perhaps you should choose your snorkeling location carefully.

While taking a deep-sea snorkeling trip might not be the right thing for you to do, snorkeling in the rock pools closer to the shore is as thrilling as going out into the ocean.

If you are looking for snorkeling gear we have a huge list of lists to help you find just the right snorkeling gear to get you up and moving, check it out here!

Knowing your limitations and planning in advance can prevent irritating illnesses from upsetting your day in the water.