Swimming with a Feeding Tube
Summer in Texas is HOT and everyone is looking for a good way to cool down. The swimming pool is a good option for some respite from the heat during the day.
But is it safe to go swimming with a feeding tube? For the most part, the answer is yes! NG-tubes generally have the least restrictions on swimming: just make sure the tube is closed, clamped, and not hooked up to a feeding pump. Most people with G-tubes, GJ-tubes, and J-tubes can swim or splash with a few precautions.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when swimming with a feeding tube.
The most important factor is that the stoma site is healed and healthy. Kids with new stomas (less than two months) should not swim until they have had more time to heal. Your doctor may also have other swimming guidelines for you to follow, so it's good to check in with them before heading to the water. People with compromised immune systems or unique feeding tube issues also need to talk with their doctor before swimming.
It's recommended to avoid hot tubs with a feeding tube, as the hot water can often breed bacteria, especially in a public setting. Lakes and rivers can also have unsafe water, so stay away from those as well.
Generally, you should swim only in well-maintained chlorinated or saltwater swimming pools, or in the ocean at a monitored beach. For public pools, you can ask a manager to provide a bacteria count before getting in. The CDC's webpage on Healthy Swimming is a good resource to look over before you get to the pool.
At the beach, avoid swimming near storm drains or after heavy rain, and keep an eye out for trash in the water. Ideally you can obtain water pollution information from the local beach health officials, but not all beaches are monitored. Use the EPA's Beaches website to learn more about beach health and check for warnings. This page on the site shows you how to look up info on the specific beach you want to visit. For Texas beaches, you can use Beach Watch to see information on current conditions. Beach Watch is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and administered by the Texas General Land Office.
If possible, you should unhook from the feeding pump and remove the extension set before getting in the water. Make sure to clamp and secure any long tubes that cannot be disconnected so they don't get caught or tangled while swimming. If you are going to the beach or a sandy area, it can be helpful to cover the entire button site with a clear, protective dressing like Tegaderm.
Never submerge a feeding pump in water. Some people have used extra long extension tubes to keep the pump dry at a distance while in use, but this is not recommended. A "dry suit" can be an option for people who can't be disconnected from the feeding pump to swim, but they can be costly to obtain.
After you've had your fun and are ready to get out of the water, you'll need to clean the stoma site right away. Make sure the site is clean and dry, and change any dressings.
The Texas Department of State Health Services webpage on public swimming pools has contact info for the department, and some info on the regulations in place for Texas. https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/poolspa/
Texas Beach Watch has water quality information for Texas beaches, and is run by the Texas General Land Office. Water samples are collected and tested at selected recreational beaches along the Texas coast in Aransas, Brazoria, Cameron, Galveston, Harris, and Jefferson, Matagorda, Nueces and San Patricio counties. From May through September, water samples are collected weekly. During the rest of the year samples are collected every two weeks. https://cgis.glo.texas.gov/Beachwatch/
This page from the EPA website can help you find health information about a particular U.S. beach. https://www.epa.gov/beaches/find-information-about-particular-us-beach
The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation website has numerous tips and resources for navigating life with a feeding tube. Their page on swimming, traveling, and camping is another good source for info on this topic. https://www.feedingtubeawareness.org/swimming/