To pee or not to pee... That is the question. It’s that time of year again. The weather is warm, the pools are open and our phones are ringing off the hook with inquiries for “swim diapers”.
There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace about how to manage continence issues and swimming, and how swim diapers work. Let’s bust the top 3 myths we commonly hear here at Healthwick.
Myth #1: If you’re managing incontinence, you shouldn't swim.
Fact: There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to take a dip in the pool if you use a properly designed swim product and follow some simple steps. In fact, since incontinence is often associated with a lack of exercise, regular swimming might help improve your continence management!
By law, most municipal pools require that a person with incontinence wear a containment brief or swim diaper with the purpose of containing accidents.
What is not commonly known is that swim diapers are not intended to be completely waterproof nor are they intended to absorb urine – their primary purpose is to contain fecal soiling.
Pool operators know that the trace amounts of urine (along with sweat, dead skin cells, shampoo, etc) that are on your skin are effectively neutralized by the chlorine and other chemicals in the pool, as are small amounts of urine you might leak due to accidents. What they’re really concerned about is solid waste (i.e. feces), which can’t be broken down and would require a complete flushing of the pool if it was to get into the water supply.
While some containment briefs do have a small amount of absorbency (basically enough to handle a small leak going from the change room to the poolside), they’re not intended to be absorbent. Think it through logically – if you wore an absorbent product such as a regular diaper or pad in the pool, the first thing it’s going to do is absorb pool water, swelling up immediately.
SoSecure features a Velcro, reusable, machine washable swim diaper that fits easily under bathing suits - which is similar to Swimmates, but disposable.
With a proper fitting swim brief, in the case of an accident, there is no leakage of bowel material and you are protected for the time it takes you to go to the bathroom to clean and change yourself (which you should do immediately, of course). Don’t worry about a little pee. That said….
Myth #2: It’s okay to pee in the pool.
Fact: No, it’s not okay. And it can have serious health consequences.
The flip side of the previous myth is the belief that there’s no harm in completely voiding one’s bladder in the pool, instead of going to the bathroom.
Remember that pool operators aren’t really concerned about small amounts of urine, however larger amounts do bring up some concerns. Chlorine is used in pools to kill germs, but when it binds to body waste (particularly urine) it forms chemicals called chloramines. Chloramines in the water irritate skin, eyes, and the respiratory tract (including the nose) when they off gas from the water and into the air above. This is particularly concerning for indoor pools where gases are contained.
If you’ve ever come back from the pool with red irritated eyes or a slight cough, it’s important to realize it wasn’t really the chlorine; it’s because there have been too many people either not showering before swimming or peeing in the pool.
Proper pool etiquette says that you should empty your bladder and take a full shower with soap and water before getting in the water. Similarly, you should vacate the pool and use the toilet if you feel you need to.
Myth #3: There’s a chemical in public swimming pools that will change colour if you pee in the pool, alerting everyone around you.
Please, please stop repeating this myth.
This myth has been around as long as the modern swimming pool has (appearing as early as the 1950s in some written works), as a tactic for parents and lifeguards to get gullible kids to use the washroom instead of peeing in the pool.
This myth has become so pervasive in North America that in 2014, the US Centres for Disease Control released a special statement to debunk it and assure the public that no such chemical exists, nor was it ever likely to. Remember that everyone has trace amounts of urine on their skin; such a chemical would have everyone in the pool looking spotty!
Despite this assurance, many people not only still believe this myth, they continue to perpetuate it, which has actively discouraged untold numbers of people managing incontinence from enjoying swimming. It’s time we put this myth to rest and let everyone enjoy the pool.
What to remember when swimming with incontinence:
Remember if you plan on swimming in a pool, look into proper fitting swim diapers The main purpose of swim diapers is to help with any accidental leakage of bowel material thanks to inner leg cuffs. But be sure to clean up and change yourself if one does happen!
Swim diapers come in both disposable (Swimmates) and reusable (SoSecure) types that can be worn under a bathing suit. Both great brands that will provide maximum coverage for all water based activities.
Peeing in the pool is never okay as it will cause problems for others in the water. Always wash with soap and use the bathroom before going into the water. Chlorine can only help so much.
Regular diapers and incontinence pads should never be worn in a pool as they will absorb the water without offering any accident protect. (This also includes plastic backed diapers!) Pads and diapers are always best used for normal everyday activities that doesn't involve water.
There are no chemicals in pools that will alert people if you accidentally pee in the pool. Don't feel put off from the enjoyment of swimming!