Salt Mouth

JbetleyJbetley UKMember
edited February 2013 in Beginner Questions
Would like to get some experienced input on what salt water does to your mouth.

I am aware that salty water can make your mouth inflamed, your tongue swell up and so on.

This is something that I noticed in the summer in a 2.5 hr sea swim, and even last week in a 1.5 hr ocean swim (though only a little bit).

So - some questions:

(1) Is there anything I can do to protect myself from this (aside from greasing up my tongue eeuw!)
(2) Is it something that you can 'acclimatise to', or is it just inevitable?
(3) Can it ever get so bad that it can cause someone to have difficulties breathing or swallowing?
(4) Is this the least of my worries as a channel aspirant, and should I just chill out?

Thanks for the advice!!



  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    The alcohol in mouthwash seems to cut through the salt pretty well. I use that during feeds, and it helps me taste something other than the salt.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    Eat a black jelly baby - does the trick perfectly. Red wiggly worms work too, but they're more hard work to chew and lack the sophistication of a jelly baby.
  • You serious? There's an anti-inflammatory in black JBs? Or does it just coat the tongue?
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    Resolution through pure deliciousness. Seriously - it doesn't prevent a salty mouth and you'll still get all thick-tongued, but it's very soothing and takes the taste away.
  • ZoeSadlerZoeSadler Charter Member
    I don't think there's a lot you can do to avoid it or "acclimatise" to it, but it's not pleasant. I remember last year I would train in Dover harbour on Saturday & Sunday then spend the rest of the week growing back a new layer of skin in my mouth until the cycle began again the following Saturday! I would always get dressed after each training swim and have an ice cream straightaway - very soothing.
    I found that tinned peaches did the trick on my actual swim and was the only thing I would eat, despite packing loads of treats. Lovely!
    Avoid extra strong mints, crisps and putting salt on your chips. They don't half sting!
  • gnome4766gnome4766 Member
    edited February 2013
    I agree with using sweets, Maynard winegums warmed in my bag for after the swim really cured me.
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    I know this may sound ridiculous, but I mean it seriously: don't open your mouth. When I was training for Tampa Bay, all of my training was done in a pool. It is typical when I train in a pool that water flows freely in and out of my mouth. In the lead up to the Tampa I was extremely concerned with what might happen with salt water. As it turned out old habits never die and my mouth instinctively kept tightly closed. The only time I gave it any thought was at the start. I never had a problem. I also did not have a problem swimming Catalina later that year. In fact the only time I did have a problem with salt water in my mouth was when I was swamped by 4' waves the near the GW Bridge at MIMS. The bagel I had in my hand got soaked and I had to toss it. Lesson: dunking bagels in salt water is not a good thing.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin
    I use 33% mouthwash solution every 2 hours when applicable (more is too strong after long exposure & can lead to mouth burns). Only reduces but doesn't eliminate the problem. Different result by person though. Taken hourly on swims of about 6 hrs to 8 hrs it's more effective but you, there's that extra feed time....

    The second part is as @bobswims says, learn to swim with your mouth closed, which is likely opposite what you do in the pool. Both these reduce but do not eliminate the problem for me.

    Another food item that helps cut the salt is Kendall Mint Cake btw. +1 for tinned peaches also.

    It took me a couple of years of repeat visits to Dover to tolerate the 5% salinity versus the Atlantic of the Irish coast's 4% (which is obviously a 20% increase). Some people aren't bothered at all. I do know of one very bad case of a friend who said it was the worst part of the EC for him, he was in significant pain for at least a week afterwards (it took me 4 days for my tongue & throat to recover). I tried things like sucky-sweets or chewing gum while swimming, which of course didn't work. But the most important thing I think is just getting your longer swims in this spring & summer, and you'll find it takes longer to affect you.

    Forum member @ChloeMcCardeldotcom was utterly unaffected after her two-way EC last year, when I spoke with her the next day (and in fact looked she'd just had a nice day at the beach). I've asked her about this specific item and she has said she'd try to send my something when she has time, which with her training is understandably very very little (which reminds me I owe her a long-overdue email, apologies Chloe). I can only tell you that she has a complex feed plan, utterly unlike the rest of us. The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

  • It is different depending where you go- never had a problem swimming at Lyme Regis, but the English Channel tok over a week to regrow my tongue....then I swam the Kaiwi for 24hrs and had no problem at all! I think acidic drinks don't help- lucozade sport type things can burn after a while. Milk or yoghurt helped, very soothing
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    Definitely ice cream afterwards.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    I was thinking about this thread the other day while swimming in San Francisco Bay. Another method of keeping seawater out of your mouth is to focus on exhaling consistently while your head is underwater. This is considered good stroke technique anyway - it helps promote better-balanced body position.

    The reason I do this in SF Bay is to keep the painfully cold water out of my mouth. However, this method also applies to preventing (or putting off) salt mouth.
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    "to focus on exhaling consistently while your head is underwater"

    This technique also prevents hypoxia. ;)
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    evmo said:

    I was thinking about this thread the other day while swimming in San Francisco Bay. Another method of keeping seawater out of your mouth is to focus on exhaling consistently while your head is underwater. This is considered good stroke technique anyway - it helps promote better-balanced body position.

    The reason I do this in SF Bay is to keep the painfully cold water out of my mouth. However, this method also applies to preventing (or putting off) salt mouth.

    SF Bay water is definitely not the most pleasant tasting water around either, all the more reason to keep it out of your mouth - especially post rainstorm when we get sewage overflow... - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    smoothies of rice or almond milk and canned peaches seem to help.
  • Hello!
    Great topic...Did Chloe McArdel ever come back to you about this? I would be very interested in hearing remedies/ as to help e and also advise all...
    I did an 11 hours sea swim on Saturday, tongue swelled up by the 4th hour - never got any worse and recovered quickly by 4 hours after the swim.
    BUT I have sore cheeks and gums still today..and taste buds on my tongue are still not totally recovered..but ok.....
    any thoughts / ideas please????
    all welcome!
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    From Ruth H. on the Channel Swimmers' chat group:
    I have never tried this (I’ve never been in salt water long enough), but during the last stages of my Mum dying of cancer, (she was eating and drinking nothing at this point) the nurses rinsed her mouth out with pineapple juice as they said there was an enzyme in the juice which cleaned the mouth and left it feeling fresh – it might be worth a try.
  • edited July 2013
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • molly1205molly1205 Senior Member
    I took a swish-n-spit of mouthwash after each feed during the Pensacola 25K and didn't have saltmouth. Had plenty of other problems, but at least I avoided that one!

    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    I use minty alcohol-free mouthwash, diluted 10:1. My understanding is that mint is a vasoconstrictor. It makes the blood vessels in your mouth constrict so they have a harder time absorbing the salt water.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited August 2013
    Welcome back @JenA !!

  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    How many layers of tongue can you slough off before it becomes an issue?

    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • I too am a fan of pineapple juice. I heard it lines ur mouth preventing it from drying out.

    Also as stupid as this is going to sound I tuck a small hard sweet (lifesaver) up in my mouth, between the cheek and gum. Then I tell myself if water gets in there at any time I have to spit out the water along with any dissolved sugary goodness. If water does not go in there for 10 strokes then I get to send that sugary saliva down the pipe. It's amazing how a little incentive changed my bad habit. Sometimes I play games with the sweet to see if I can make it last until the next feed (this rarely happens). During longer swims I have lifesavers for the first 4 feeds then a Tumms at the next feed...this ensures all my treats dont come back up!
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    Rinsing with Scope works very well. The aftertaste is also good for the head.
  • @kane is a lifesaver considered assistance? :D
  • CoppermillCoppermill TravellingMember

    My favourite is custard, not only in my mouth, but all over my face, the more the better.

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