Swimming with an Ostomy

Posted by susan_f @susanbfoster, May 7 3:51pm

Its summertime (or almost) here in the northern hemisphere, and some of us are looking to get into the water.

I’ve had my ileostomy for 20 years now, and I’ve been swimming on a Masters Swimming team for almost the whole time. I would pool swim for an hour at a time three or four days a week. Plus, I SCUBA dive, so that means I might be in the salt water for an hour three or four times a day.

I often get questions about swimming with an ostomy – here are my answers:

Can I swim with an ostomy? – Yes, you can! Its important to have an appliance that you feel comfortable with and you feel is secure.
Is there a particular appliance that is better for swimming? – Not in my experience, and I have swum with Hollister, Convatec, and Coloplast appliances. I personally use Coloplast because it works for me.

Do I need to do something special to the appliance before swimming? – My appliance does not have tape, so I usually picture frame the appliance with 3M Medipore tape and then take the tape off after swimming – otherwise the edges get gummy. If you use an appliance with tape, you can also picture frame it so the edges of the appliance don’t loosen up. You can “waterproof” the tape with barrier wipe if you like. Another product I like, especially for SCUBA diving trips, is SureSeal – which comes in a size large enough to cover a Convatec or Hollister appliance that is square. It’s made of the same thin plastic (Tegaderm) that they use to cover your IV.

What should I wear? – As a female, I like to wear a snug one piece with a pattern that helps disguise the outline of the appliance. I typically wear a Speedo, but any swim suit that you feel confident in will work fine. For males, swim trunks with a tee shirt is an option. A cover for the appliance, like a Stealth Belt or Ostomy Secrets Swim Wrap will let you take your shirt off at the beach and keep the appliance covered (personally, I’ve never wanted to go topless at the beach, or wear a bikini, but these would work for females too).

Will anyone notice my ostomy? – I haven’t ever had anyone say anything about my ostomy in the twenty years I’ve been swimming. So.. maybe? But probably not.

What else do I need to know? – I empty my appliance before I go out on the pool deck and get into the water. I tend to change my appliance well before I swim – like at least the night before. I don’t notice that I need to change more often if I am swimming, and I change every 4 days. Some people like to make sure that they have a fresh change on, but I would suggest waiting at least an hour before swimming if you just changed. Its up to you and what you feel comfortable with.

How do I get comfortable? I usually suggest getting into a bathtub with what you are going to swim in and sit there with water over your appliance for a good half hour or so to see how your appliance behaves. This is the both reassure yourself, and to make sure that, if there is an issue, you are in a private space that you can control.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Ostomy Support Group.

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