Swimming with Home Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition

A common question we receive from Oley members is whether a consumer can swim with a feeding tube or IV catheter. Below are some guidelines and resources. We advise you to speak with your physician first. (Click here for research on the relationship between bathing practices in HPN consumers and catheter related bloodstream infection.)

Tube vs. catheter

Tube-fed consumers can swim if their stoma site is healed and healthy, and they avoid a poor quality water source (see “Which water is safe?” below).

Because there is no evidence that swimming has caused a central venous catheter (CVC) infection, many large home parenteral nutrition (HPN) programs allow their IV-fed consumers to swim once their catheter site is healed. (Allow at least 30 days after line placement.) They advise performing site care as soon as the consumer is finished swimming. (Note: a surgically implanted port that does not have a needle accessing it and has a healed site does not need to be covered before swimming. For this reason avid swimmers may prefer this type of catheter.) Below are some product recommendations that may be helpful. Use common sense and the resources listed below to judge the quality of water you may swim in.

Dressings/PICC line covers

The AquaGuard® is a large impermeable dressing that can be used to cover a Hickman®, Broviac® or a PICC line when swimming. PICC lines can also be covered with a waterproof sleeve: two products Oley is aware of are the Dry Pro's PICC Line Protector™ US*, UK, and the XeroSox®. Transparent impermeable surgical dressings such as Tegaderm® or OpSite® are also acceptable.

Which water is safe?

Swimming is normally safe in the ocean, although some beaches are polluted and should be avoided. Check the resources listed below for tips (in particular #1 & 2).

Swimming in a well-monitored, private pool that is not used by pets/animals should also be fine. Properly treated swimming pool water should pose no greater risk than shower or bath water. At a public pool, however, your risk increases. Ask the pool manager for the bacteria count before diving in. Check the resources below for tips (in particular #3 & 4).

Lakes and ponds are not a good choice because the water is potentially stagnant, and likely has fecal matter from birds, ducks, geese, etc. Check the resources below for tips (in particular #1 & 3).

Hot tubs, and the like, are out of the question. The level of microorganisms growing in this warmer water makes them too risky for consumers with an IV catheter and most consumers on tube feeding.

Resources for Water Quality/Swimming Safety

1.  Swimming or Not: 2014 Conference Presentation

2 Swimming with Lines and Tubes: It's a Team Effort

3.  Information on Oceans, Rivers, Lakes Water Quality Monitoring

4.  Before You Go to the Beach (brochure)

Healthy Swimming Information by State

6. The Water Quality and Health Web Site

        Read how to recognize a healthy pool (Q&A #2), how to protect yourself (Q&A#3) as well as questions to ask the pool operator (Q&A#8)

7 General Pool Safety Information

*Dry Pro offers a $5.00 coupon, if you mention you are an Oley member when ordering.

Updated: August, 2014