Can I go swimming with an ostomy? The answer is a resounding “YES!!!” Swimming is an excellent exercise—an opportunity for a good cardiovascular workout without overly stressing your joints (like knees and hips) or your spine. The pool is a great place to work on those range-of-motion exercises, too. The water helps support you while you move. And water exercises can be done in the deep end or while sitting in the shallow end of the pool. Best of all, swimming is an activity you can enjoy with family and friends of all ages and abilities!
So why are so many of us afraid to get back into the water? Here are some of our issues and solutions: I’m afraid that my appliance will leak or come off while I’m in the pool. This is by far everyone’s number one concern. The thing to remember is that your pouching system is designed to be leak-free and water-proof, and your wafer adhesive actually gets stronger in water. As long as your seal is strong and intact, strap on your swim fins and jump in. TIP #1: Don’t go swimming right after you’ve put on a new wafer. TIP #2: Make sure your pouch is empty. TIP #3: Picture framing your wafer with water-proof tape isn’t necessary but may give you the extra confidence you need. TIP #4: Avoid wearing pouches with filters into the pool. Water may get in through the filter.
I’m concerned that people will be able to see my pouching system under my bathing suit. A dark colored suit with a busy pattern will camouflage your appliance better than light colors like white or yellow, which can become almost transparent when wet. Note: your pouch will dry just as quickly as your suit will, so no need to worry about a tell-tale damp spot. TIP #1: For women, choose a suit with a small, well-placed ruffle or skirt. TIP #2: For men, choose a suit with a higher cut waist or longer leg. TIP #3: You may wish to wear a smaller, non-drainable pouch (those designed for intimate moments work well here, too!). TIP #4: If you have a colostomy and you irrigate, you may try wearing a stoma cap while you swim.
I’m embarrassed about changing into/out of my bathing suit in the locker room and people noticing my ostomy appliance. Some of us don’t care who sees what, while others are more modest when it comes to who knows about our ostomies and pouching systems. If you’re a little on the shy side, try to find a spot that’s out of the way or less crowded. Don’t let the possibility of problems arising when changing prevent you from an enjoyable afternoon swim with family or friends. TIP #1: You may wish to change and towel off in a convenient bathroom stall. TIP #2: Put on a dry, oversized T-shirt as a cover-up while you change. TIP #3: A dry suit is easier to take off than a wet one. Relax by the side of the pool with a good book or a talkative friend before heading for the locker room. TIP #4: Wear your bathing suit under a jogging suit or sweat pants and don’t worry about changing at all.
What about using the hot tub or Jacuzzi? Go ahead. Again, as long as your appliance seal is good and your pouch is empty you should have no problems with your ostomy.
Do some planning – you know your body better than anyone and how long after eating your ostomy starts to work. Try to arrange your swimming for a time when your output will be minimal. If you are still concerned about entering the pool with your appliance, try this: put on your bathing suit, fill your bathtub with water and sit in it for half an hour. You’ll feel more confident when you see there’s no leakage. You’ll also get to see what your suit (and your covered pouching system) look like wet.
A support garment or bike shorts under your suit or a snug, Lycra bathing suit can help to keep your pouching system in place and prevent your pouch and clip from migrating to the groin area. Some ostomates sew pockets into the inside of their suits as a way of providing additional pouch support, if needed. If you wear an ostomy belt, you should know that cloth belts stretch in the water – wear a rubber one if you want to wear a belt in the pool. Again, remember to get your doctor’s okay before you take to the water or begin any exercise.
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