Having a urinary catheter shouldn’t stop you from taking part in your everyday activities, including swimming.
Swimming can be easily incorporated into a regular exercise routine, provided that you take special care with your catheter before, during, and after a dip in the pool. But before you swim, please check with your doctor as they may have specific advice pertaining to your situation.
Long-term catheter users (referring to anyone who has continuously used them for more than four weeks), are aware that catheters are designed to help to empty your bladder easily and with a minimum of discomfort. They also reduce the risk of bladder infection and kidney damage which can be caused by an overfull bladder, which is why many people find that having a catheter has actually improved their quality of life. It is with this in mind that we want to discuss how you can continue to swim even though you are fitted with an indwelling or a suprapubic catheter.
You can swim safely
Swimming is a brilliant cardiovascular exercise and can be particularly useful in strengthening the pelvic floor, a bonus for those who suffer from bladder and bowel problems. Having a catheter, however, does require you to take a few precautions before entering the pool.
As you are already aware, hygiene is the single most important element of living with a catheter, and hygiene is also paramount when it comes to swimming. You must only swim in water that is treated with chlorine – frankly, not many people want to swim in unchlorinated pools nowadays – but you also need to avoid lakes and rivers as they tend to have higher bacteria counts which will increase your chances of getting an infection.
As for swimming in the ocean, the general advice is to seek out a pristine spot; one that is far from urban dwellings and sewage outlets.
It is also advisable to make sure that any changing rooms you use are sanitary, as hygienic environments help limit exposure to infections. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your catheter, particularly in unknown toilets.
If you feel a little conscious about your catheter while changing and want some privacy, you can make use of the disabled facilities.
Swimming with an indwelling catheter
An indwelling catheter is inserted through the urethra, with an inflatable balloon at the bladder end to keep the catheter in place. This type of catheter is perfectly adaptable to exercise including swimming. Your medical provider is likely to discuss a few things with you which we would like to highlight here so you can be prepared.
- Consider a catheter valve
A discreet alternative to a drainage bag, a catheter valve is a tap-like device which can be fitted to your catheter. It temporarily seals off the catheter and allows your bladder to store the urine until after your exercise. The valve is small, about 6 to 8 inches in length, meaning you can easily tuck it inside your swimwear.
Before you disconnect the drainage bag, make sure that the balloon is inflated properly.
- Consider a smaller bag
If you prefer to keep the drainage bag, there are smaller urine bags available that are useful for swimming. These smaller bags can be easily concealed within swimwear and should allow for freedom of movement. The only word of caution is you should empty the drainage bag before entering a pool.
With millions of people worldwide using catheters, swimwear manufacturers are producing fashionable items that are designed to conceal your drainage bags. For example, there are high-waisted bikinis and one-piece swimsuits for women, whereas men may choose looser fitting board shorts.
- Keep it dry and clean
After each swim, make sure your catheter is clean and dried thoroughly.
Swimming with a suprapubic catheter
A suprapubic catheter is inserted into the bladder through a small insertion in the tummy, just below the belly button. Due to this, you must make sure that the area around the catheter insertion is completely healed before you swim to prevent irritation and infection. The healing process may take around a month, but always check with your doctor before getting in the water.
Same as indwelling catheter users, suprapubic catheter users can choose to use a catheter valve or use a smaller bag.
Leading an active lifestyle
As part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, swimming can greatly benefit catheter users. Doing what you like is also a strong testament that having a catheter does not mean you cannot continue to lead an active life. With a little preparation, you can even go on holiday as mentioned in our post “Going on holiday with a catheter”.
The most important thing for catheter users is to practice good hygiene. Another useful tip is to know the signs of an infection. Long-term catheter users are more likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs). The reason is that bacteria from the skin and urethra can spread to the bladder; in other words, the catheter becomes a carrier for bacterial colonies to form and spread from the catheter to the patient.
If you have had catheter-associated UTIs, also known as CAUTIs, then you know how painful and uncomfortable they can be. You may be prescribed antibiotics which take time to work and they are short-lived too, not to mention that regular usage of antibiotics will reduce or even eliminate the effectiveness of drugs. The good news is, UroShield can help.
With UroShield, comfort comes first
UroShield is a compact external medical device that generates low frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves to prevent bacterial biofilm from forming on catheters. The action of the ultrasonic waves runs along the full length of the catheter, up into the balloon and down into the bag, both on the outside and inside surfaces of the catheter. The ultrasound gently vibrates the catheter to stop the bacteria from adhering to the catheter and forming the biofilm, thereby preventing infections from developing.
If biofilm is present, UroShield helps to break up the protective layer surrounding the biofilm that is normally impenetrable to antibiotics, allowing it access to the bacteria and curing the infection. The vibrations also prevent catheter encrustation and blockage, caused by crystalline deposits of mineral salts in the urine. UroShield also helps to reduce catheter-associated bladder spasms and pain and is effective for any kind of catheter, both indwelling and suprapubic.
In our clinical studies, patients using UroShield have reported benefits such as:
- No or reduced infection rates
- No or reduced catheter blockage
- No or reduced catheter-related bladder spasms
- No or reduced catheter-related pain
- Increased quality of life
- More energy and feeling generally better
To learn more about UroShield, get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form.
If you found this interesting, take a look at:
- Going on holiday with a catheter
- Why do I get bladder infections, and what can I do about them?
- Top 10 tips to help catheter users improve their mobility
- Best diet advice for patients struggling with an overactive bladder
- Overcoming the learning curves that come with a catheter
This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.