Can you go swimming with a catheter bag?

Many people who use a catheter bag wonder if they can still enjoy swimming and other water activities. A catheter bag collects urine from the bladder and is connected to a catheter tube that is inserted into the urethra. While swimming with a catheter bag is possible, there are some important factors to consider.

Quick Answers

  • Yes, you can swim with a catheter bag, but extra precautions should be taken.
  • Choose a leg bag over a larger night bag for swimming. Make sure it is secured to your leg.
  • Empty the bag before swimming. Consider using a catheter valve to keep water out.
  • Avoid submerging the tubing or bag. Keep the bag above water level.
  • Shower after swimming to rinse off any chlorine or dirt that could cause infection.
  • Use caution on slides or diving boards which may dislodge the tubing.
  • Listen to your body and stop if there is any pain or discomfort.

Choosing the Right Catheter Bag for Swimming

Most experts recommend using a leg bag when swimming rather than a larger night bag. Leg bags are smaller, made of latex or silicone, and attach directly to the leg with a stretchable band or sleeve.

The key advantage of a leg bag is that it can be concealed under swim trunks or a swimsuit. It also contains less urine volume, so there is less risk of spilling or a heavy bag pulling down in the water. Make sure the leg bag is securely attached and the tubing is tightened to prevent water from entering the bag.

Larger night bags hold more urine volume, 2000mL or more, and are designed for overnight use. While some night bags are promoted as “shower bags”, they are bulkier and more difficult to conceal for swimming. The extra tubing and bag material also increase drag and weight in the water.

How to Empty and Secure the Leg Bag

Before swimming, be sure to completely empty the leg bag of urine. This prevents the bag from becoming too heavy in the water. It also eliminates any leaks or spills, keeping the pool water sanitary.

You may want to consider using a catheter valve, which replaces the drainage bag with a stopper at the catheter tube’s end. This prevents water from entering the tube when submerged. Make sure the valve is tight fitting and doesn’t allow backflow of urine into the bladder.

Secure the leg bag tightly to your thigh just above the knee. This keeps it in place and close to the body. Adjust leg bands and leg straps so they are snug but not restrictive. The drainage tube should also be tightened and secured with tape if needed.

Tips for Safe Swimming with a Catheter Bag

While swimming with a catheter bag is possible, special care should be taken to keep both the bag and exit site clean and free from contamination.

Keep the Bag Above Water

Try to keep the catheter bag above the surface of the water as much as possible. This prevents water from entering the bag and tubing where bacteria or chemicals can collect. When holding the bag above water, be careful not to pull on the tubing.

Avoid Submerging the Tubing

The tubing that connects the catheter to the leg bag should also be kept above the surface. Do not let it dangle into the water. Tape it against your leg securely if needed. This prevents contaminated water from tracking up into the urethra.

Use Caution with Diving Boards

Take care when using swimming pool slides or diving boards. The impact from diving and sliding can potentially dislodge both the catheter and tubing from proper position. Consider avoiding the diving well and slides altogether to be safe.

Rinse Off After Swimming

Shower with gentle soap and water immediately after exiting the pool. This washes away any pool chemicals, sweat, dirt or microbes that could enter the urinary tract. Pat dry the catheter exit site thoroughly. Change into a new catheter bag to avoid cross-contamination.

Watch Out for Discomfort

Listen to any pain or discomfort messages your body sends while swimming. Stop activity if there is any pulling, leakage or unusual sensations. Make sure straps, tape and positioning of the leg bag are not irritating skin or restricting blood flow.

Take Frequent Breaks

Get out of the water periodically to check your catheter equipment and reposition if needed. Take breaks between swims to empty, rinse and replace the leg bag. This helps prevent bacterial buildup and urine backflow.

Types of Swimming and Water Activities

Certain water sports and pool conditions require extra precautions for safe catheter use.

Recreational Swimming

Casual swimming in a backyard or public pool is generally low risk if catheter hygiene guidelines are followed. Avoid pool water that is overly-chlorinated or cloudy as chemicals can enter the catheter.

Lakes, Rivers and Ocean

Natural bodies of water may contain more bacteria. Thoroughly clean the catheter area after swimming to prevent infection. Check for underwater objects that could snag the tubing before entering.

Hot Tubs and Spas

Keep time in hot tubs brief, under 15 minutes. The warm water encourages bacterial growth around the catheter. Rinse off immediately after exiting. Make sure chemicals are balanced.

Water Parks and Slides

Use caution on water slides, as the landing could jar the catheter loose. Water park wave pools and lazy rivers may also carry higher infection risk. Inspect equipment often and avoid prolonged submersion.

Swim Classes and Lap Swimming

The repetitive motion of swim classes or lap swimming can cause friction and irritation around the catheter. Use lubricating gel on the tubing and exit site if needed. Adjust leg bands frequently to prevent rubbing.

Competitive Swimming and Diving

The catheter bag may fill more quickly during strenuous competitive swimming. Take extra leg bag drainage breaks. The impact from competitive diving carries higher risk of dislodging the catheter.

Best Practices for Maintaining a Sterile Catheter

Proper daily catheter care is essential for lowering infection risk both in and out of the water. Here are some best practices for catheter maintenance:

Empty the Bag Regularly

Drain the leg bag before it becomes overfull, at least every 2-4 hours. This prevents pulling and leakage which can introduce bacteria.

Change Bags Frequently

Replace leg bags every 5-7 days, or more often if drainage becomes slow. Discard used bags immediately. Never reuse or top off old bags.

Clean the Exit Site

Clean around the catheter exit site daily with mild soap and water, then pat thoroughly dry. Do not use creams or ointments that could block drainage.

Watch for Signs of Infection

Monitor for redness, swelling or pus-like discharge at the catheter site which could indicate infection. Consult a doctor at the first signs of trouble.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids daily to dilute urine and keep the catheter and tubing clear. Dehydration can lead to blockages and urinary tract infections.

Maintain Proper Position

Prevent kinks and obstruction in the catheter tube by securing it in a downward position toward the leg bag with medical tape.

Precautions for Females with a Catheter

Women face increased risks of bladder and perineal contamination when swimming with a catheter. Here are some extra steps women can take to stay healthy:

  • Wear a conservative one-piece swimsuit to keep the leg bag concealed and close to the body.
  • Use tampons instead of pads if menstruating to avoid leakage of blood and fluids.
  • Change into a fresh pad or tampon after swimming to prevent transfer of bacteria.
  • Take care getting in and out of hot tubs, as warmer water can encourage bacterial growth in the perineal area.
  • Rinse the perineal area with feminine wash after swimming to wash away pool chemicals.
  • Schedule regular gynecologist visits to check for early signs of infection.

When to Avoid Swimming with a Catheter

While swimming with a catheter bag can be made safe, there are some situations when it may be better to avoid water activities altogether:

  • Recent catheter insertion – Wait 5-7 days after initial catheter placement before swimming to allow the urethra to heal.
  • Fever, chills or other signs of infection – Do not swim if you suspect a urinary tract infection or urosepsis.
  • Blood or pus leaking from catheter – This could reflect injury or stricture. See your doctor promptly.
  • Severe pain with swimming – Stop and consult a urologist if you experience bladder spasms, urgency or pain.
  • History of catheter-associated UTIs – Avoid swimming until the underlying cause of frequent infection can be determined.
  • Poorly-controlled diabetes or a weak immune system – Added infection risk may make swimming inadvisable.
  • Inability to properly secure the catheter bag – The bag must stay firmly attached and in proper position.

Listen to the advice of your doctor. Some may recommend waiting for a period of time after catheter insertion before swimming, or avoiding pools altogether if you have a history of recurrent UTIs.

Alternative Water Activities

If your doctor suggests avoiding swimming pools and other questionable bodies of water, there are some safer water activities you can still enjoy:

  • Sitting at poolside with legs dangling in shallow water
  • Relaxing in a clean bathtub filled with warm water
  • Soaking arms and legs in a pedicure basin
  • Getting a professional massage using mineral pool water
  • Trying aquatic physical therapy in a controlled environment
  • Practicing relaxation techniques while listening to recorded ocean sounds

Staying well-hydrated and using water-based moisturizers can also help renew the skin if unable to be fully immersed.


Swimming with a catheter bag can be done safely by taking proper precautions. Choose a leg bag instead of a larger night drainage bag. Empty the bag completely before swimming and consider using a catheter valve. Avoid submerging the tubing and bag. Rinse off after swimming and change into a fresh bag.

Listen to your body and stop swimming if pain or discomfort occurs. Avoid diving boards or slides that could dislodge the tubing. Maintain good catheter hygiene at all times. Consider alternative water activities if swimming is not recommended for you.

With some modifications, those using a catheter can still enjoy many benefits of swimming and water sports. But it is important to keep health and safety in mind when making the decision. Consult your urologist or nephrologist for specific advice about swimming with your particular condition.

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