Feeding Tubes and Swimming

Feeding Tubes and Swimming

It’s a common question. “My child has a surgically placed feeding tube. Can they go in the water?” To answer there’s some context required so it’s best to consult with your physician. This is especially true if the tube site is less than 6 months old. Assuming the tube site has completely healed from the surgery and the stoma is well established, the rest of the post applies to you.

If your child gets in the water and the water goes through his stoma it lands in his stomach which is the exact same place it would end up with any other child. There are plenty of places where swimming is simply a bad idea. Lakes can grow many different types of bacteria which can make you sick. If you’ve been swimming in a lake your whole life you’ve probably already been exposed to whatever is in it and it’s unlikely you’ll get sick. A child who has never swum there before might get very sick from that same bacteria.

Rivers and streams tend to be safer in general because the water is moving. They can still be contaminated accidentally by companies improperly disposing of waste products. Don’t swim in any water which smells off. Besides causing skin irritation the chemical may be poisonous. Again, this applies to everyone and not just children with feeding tubes. A feeding tube isn’t necessary to swallow a mouthful of water accidentally or get it into your nose or ears.

The ocean is my favorite place to swim and I highly recommend it. Like clean lakes, rivers, and streams the water is constantly moving. It’s unlikely you’ll experience issues with the stoma from the ocean. Salt water is to some degree cleansing on its own. Anything which might contaminate an ocean to the point of posing a health risk would cause it to be completely shut down to the public. Events like this are very rare and are usually noticed promptly by both the company responsible for the spill and the government.

So, yes, your tubie can swim! The only reason a new stoma is questionable is it’s an open wound. Your skin protects your body from a lot of different environmental dangers including dangerous bacteria. Providing those things a direct path to your blood stream is a bad idea and can result in a blood infection, more commonly known as sepsis. Your doctor will know upon inspection whether or not your child’s stoma has healed sufficiently or if it presents an infection risk. They may recommend covering the stoma, watching your child closely after swimming, only swimming in certain areas, or avoiding the water altogether depending how vulnerable the stoma is to infection.

Have fun this summer! There’s no reason to let your tube hold you back. Be safe and enjoy the water.

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