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Swimming can be an excellent cardiovascular workout and a valuable addition to your exercise regimen. Several medical conditions necessitate the use of a urinary catheter to drain the bladder and this can present unique challenges while in the water. Swimming with a catheter is possible as long as you take certain precautions before entering the pool; discuss the process with your doctor, too, as she may have advice specific to your situation.
Two Types of Urinary Catheters
There are two locations for a urinary catheter 2. The suprapubic catheter is positioned just above the pubic bone and the tubing accesses the bladder directly through a surgical incision in the skin and muscle. Meanwhile, the Atlas of Pelvic Surgery website explains, urethral catheter passes through the urethra and into the bladder; there is no surgical incision in this type of catheter.
Capping the Catheter
Adult Incontinence & Swimming
The main consideration with both catheters is to ensure that the urine does not flow back into the bladder. This can cause bacteria to flow into the bladder, creating an opportunity for infection. Both the suprapubic and urethral catheters use the same tubing and collection system to collect urine; this is referred to as a Foley catheter. Prior to swimming, ensure that the catheter balloon is inflated properly and disconnect the drainage bag. A plug is available that fits the end of the tubing which will stop drainage.
- The main consideration with both catheters is to ensure that the urine does not flow back into the bladder.
- Prior to swimming, ensure that the catheter balloon is inflated properly and disconnect the drainage bag.
Securing the Tubing
Once the catheter is capped, it may be tucked into a man's swim shorts or a woman's swimsuit. The end of the tubing that protrudes from the body is 6 to 8 inches long and should be readily concealable. The tubing should cause no loss of mobility in the water; however, in the case of the urethral catheter, the motion of your swimming can cause some irritation at the entrance to the urethra.
- Once the catheter is capped, it may be tucked into a man's swim shorts or a woman's swimsuit.
- The end of the tubing that protrudes from the body is 6 to 8 inches long and should be readily concealable.
Collapsed Bladder Symptoms
In the case of the suprapubic catheter, it is essential that the surgical site is completely healed before taking a tub bath or swimming. Consult the surgeon who placed the catheter before attempting these activities.
Adult Incontinence & Swimming
Collapsed Bladder Symptoms
What Are the Consequences of an Untreated UTI?
How to Put in a Coude Catheter
Parts of the Urinary System
How to Use Urinary Catheters With Diapers
How to Irrigate or Flush a Catheter
How to Irrigate Foley Catheters
What Causes Ejaculation?
Causes of Urethra Pain
- Atlas of Pelvic Surgery; Insertion of Suprapubic Catheter; Clifford R. Wheeless, Jr., M.D.. and Marcella L. Roenneburg, M.D.
- MedlinePlus; Urinary Catheters; Sept. 3, 2010
- Håkansson MÅ. Reuse versus single-use catheters for intermittent catheterization: what is safe and preferred? Review of current status. Spinal Cord. 2014;52(7):511-6. doi:10.1038/sc.2014.79
- National Clinical Guideline Centre (UK), Royal College of Physicians (UK). Long term urinary catheters. In: Infection: prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in primary and community care. London: National Clinical Guideline Centre, 2012.
- Willette PA, Coffield S. Current trends in the management of difficult urinary catheterizations. West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(6):472-8. doi:10.5811/westjem.2011.11.6810
- Cortese YJ, Wagner VE, Tierney M, Devine D, Fogarty A. Review of catheter-associated urinary tract infections and urinary tract models. J Healthc Eng. 2018;2018:2986742. doi:10.1155/2018/2986742
- Urinary catheter types and being part of the insertion team. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Updated April 2017.
- Guide to implementing a program to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections in long-term care. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Published March 2017.
- Urinary Catheters. Medline Plus. Updated January 6, 2020.
- Infection control: catheter-associated urinary tract infections. Summary of recommendations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated November 5, 2015.
- Feneley RC, Hopley IB, Wells PN. Urinary catheters: history, current status, adverse events and research agenda [published correction appears in J Med Eng Technol. 2016;40(2):59]. J Med Eng Technol. 2015;39(8):459–470. doi:10.3109/03091902.2015.1085600
- Meddings J, Saint S, Fowler KE, et al. The Ann Arbor criteria for appropriate urinary catheter use in hospitalized medical patients: results obtained by using the RAND/UCLA appropriateness method. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(9 Suppl):S1-34. doi:10.7326/M14-1304
Wendy Swope has been writing professionally since 2000. Her articles have appeared in newspapers as well as trade publications. Swope wrote "Wild Idaho" for Falcon Press and coauthored a chapter in the textbook "ACCCN's Critical Care Nursing." She is a certified acute-care nurse practitioner.