Swimming
with an ostomy bag

Enjoy swimming with a stoma bag

Swimming is not just fun, but is also a great way to stay fit. It is a healthy, low-impact activity that is wonderful for your health; you can do it your whole life, even with a stoma. But for many who have a new stoma, going swimming can be a challenge. Fear of stoma leakage and worries about how other people might react are generally your biggest concerns. 

Take your time, you will get there.

Our stoma bags are waterproof(1) and so it is no problem to hop in the water when you feel like it: Be it in the ocean, a lake, a river or a pool – just enjoy the water wherever you want! 

The following advices from other ostomates will hopefully give you the confidence to take another step back into ‘normal life’. 

  • Take it little by little; don’t overdo things at the beginning.
  • You can always start by just putting your feet in the water while sitting on the edge of a pool or standing in the surf at the beach.
  • Good preparation is advisable; see also the recommendations below regarding stoma appliances, swimwear and additional supplies.
  • A dress rehearsal or dry run (in the sense of the word) at your home may make you more confident.
  • It is recommended not to eat anything before getting in the water so your stomach is empty (concerns colostomates and ileostomates). But of course, you know your stoma best and when it usually starts to discharge its output.

Which stoma bag is suitable for swimming?

Go swimming with your usual stoma bag, especially if you use a one-piece bag system. Too many bag changes could cause skin irritation. One-piece bags are low profile and almost unnoticeable under swimwear. If you use a two-piece system, you may put on a smaller bag or even choose a closed bag in case you normally use a drainable bag with a bottom outlet. It is completely up to you! Our stoma bags are waterproof, along with the adhesive of our wafers (two-piece systems) and skin protectors (one-piece systems). Just remember to cover the filter located at the top of your bag if your bag has one. You will find protection stickers of the appropriate size in the packaging of your ostomy bags.

Find additional recommendations for you based on ostomates’ feedback below:

  • Empty your bag before you get into the water.
  • Do not put on a new wafer or skin protector immediately before swimming. Make sure you wait a few hours before going into the water, as the appliance must have fully adhered to the skin beforehand.
  • If you feel insecure, take it one step at a time: Start with a shorter swim and gradually increase the time … Remember to check occasionally if the appliance starts to come loose.
  • Some ostomates report being in the water for several hours without any problems. But it is different for everyone and you have to find out what works for you.
  • In general, you do not need to change your bag and wafer after swimming. Just check the seal and as long as it is ok, you can keep the appliance on.
  • Some people swear by wafer extenders, strips or seal rings but those should be considered optional and not a necessity. Other patients say that they simply stick waterproof medical tape on the edges of their wafer or skin protector, but be careful that these methods do not irritate your skin. Do try anything which helps you to overcome your initial anxiety.
  • If you wish, pat everything dry when you get out of the water. You may bring a hand towel with you just for the bag if you prefer. Or use a hair dryer on lowest level before getting dressed. Or simply let it dry on its own.

The right ostomy swimwear

We are all different. It is up to you whether you wish to show or hide your ostomy. If you prefer not to unveil your stoma in public places, it does not mean that you are ashamed of it. And if you feel absolutely comfortable letting others see your stoma bag, good for you. Everybody has the right to do whatever makes them feel comfortable. Because everyone is different and no one should be judged. Thus, choose what works best for you. 

The choice of your swimwear plays an important role in how secure and confident you feel. This does not necessarily mean that you need to purchase special swimwear for ostomates. Just check how well the bathing suit or swim trunk helps to hide your ostomy and look for a swimsuit which holds your stoma bag firmly to your body. This might give you more security, i.e. the feeling that everything is “in place”.

Here are some ideas and recommendations:

  • Try different outfits; your choice may vary depending on the occasion, e.g. pool or beach.
  • Choose swimwear with a patterned material as it conceals the outline of your stoma bag, thus making it less noticeable.
  • The same goes for swimwear with ruffles, there are beautiful swimsuits for women.
  • If you prefer two-piece swimwear, you may consider high-waisted swim shorts or a swim bottom combined with a bikini top.
  • For men, high-waisted trunks will cover your stoma perfectly.
  • For more security, choose a ‘body shaper’ swimwear that has a tight panel across your tummy and helps to keep your bag fixed closely to your body: tight swimsuits, swim shirts, rash guards or tri suits.
  • Additionally, you can combine different ‘layers’ and wear tighter ones or even supportive underwear under your swim shorts or trunks.
  • Another option may be wraps, the fabric of which dries again quickly.
  • If you are anxious do a ‘dry run’ at home: Wet your swimming outfit under the shower and then check your bag in front of a mirror. Supportive underwear is a great option to make the bag less visible through your wet swimwear. Looking at yourself will show you that your bag will not be visible to other people in the water.

Ocean, lake, river or pool – just enjoy the water

How to cover the filter of your stoma bag

Practical advice

Before bathing, showering or swimming, it is important to cover the filter of your colostomy or drainable ostomy bag with the protection sticker to maintain the filter’s performance. These stickers are provided in the packaging of your stoma bags. Using them is quite simple but varies slightly depending on which bag you are using. Remember to remove the filter protection sticker after bathing, showering or swimming.

Bags with central filter on the upper side

  • Detach one of the filter protection stickers from the backing paper. You find these in the packaging of your stoma bags.
  • Place the sticker so that the entire seal mark is protected. Make sure that the gas evacuation opening of the filter is fully covered (see illustrations).

This handling applies to Flexima® Colostomy (flat Mini/Midi), Flexima® Roll'up (flat and convex), Flexima® Active (Colostomy/ Roll'up), Flexima® 3S (Colostomy/ Roll'up/ High Flow) and Flexima® Key (Colostomy/ Roll'up) bags.

Bags with inspection window

  • Detach one of the filter protection stickers from the backing paper. You find these in the packaging of your stoma bags.
  • Lift the cover of the inspection window.
  • Place the sticker so that the whole area of the filter is covered (see illustrations).

This handling applies to all our stoma bags with inspection windows.

Bags with corner filter on the upper side

  • Detach one of the filter protection stickers from the backing paper. You find these in the packaging of your stoma bags.
  • Fold the sticker and place it on both sides of the bag so that it covers the sealing mark and the gas evacuation opening of the filter (see illustrations).

This applies to our Flexima® Colostomy flat (Maxi) and convex bags, Flexima® High FlowFlexima® Key Maxi Drainable and Proxima® ranges.

References:

1) Data on file available upon request

Note:

Photographs are used on illustration purpose and are posed by models.