Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common, especially among women. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply, causing inflammation and infection. The most common symptom of a UTI is a persistent urge to urinate frequently, even when little urine comes out. Other symptoms can include pain or burning during urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and pelvic pain.
UTIs can be unpleasant and painful. If you have a UTI, you may be wondering if you need to avoid swimming until you recover. Here’s what you need to know about swimming with a UTI.
How does Swimming Impact UTIs ?
There are a few factors to consider regarding swimming with a UTI.
Irritation From Chlorine
Most swimming pools are treated with chlorine and other chemicals to kill bacteria and viruses. While those chemicals help keep the water sanitized, they can irritate the urethra and bladder if you have a UTI. The irritation can make UTI symptoms like burning during urination worse.
Difficulty Emptying the Bladder
When you swim, you tend to hold your urine for longer periods. Holding urine for too long allows bacteria to multiply, worsening a UTI. The pressure from the water can also make it harder to fully empty your bladder. Residual urine in the bladder increases UTI risk.
While properly chlorinated pools kill most UTI-causing E. coli bacteria quickly, bacteria can still get introduced into the urethra from the water. Proper pre-swim hygiene like showering and bathroom use can reduce UTI risk.
Can You Swim With a UTI?
Whether you can swim with a UTI depends on the severity of your symptoms. Here are some general guidelines:
If your symptoms are mild, swimming is OK, especially if you avoid pools with heavy chlorine. Be sure to urinate frequently and drink lots of water.
If your symptoms are moderate to severe, avoid swimming until the infection clears. Chlorine can worsen pain and irritation.
If you have a fever along with a UTI, do not swim. Fevers signify a kidney infection, which requires prompt medical treatment.
Avoid pools and hot tubs if your urine is cloudy, reddish, or foul-smelling, as that indicates a more advanced UTI.
Ask your doctor if you are unsure whether swimming is a good idea with your particular UTI. Follow their specific recommendations.
Tips for Swimming With a UTI
While swimming with a mild UTI is possible, take precautions to avoid worsening symptoms or spreading infection:
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Staying hydrated dilutes your urine, reducing irritation during urination. Drink extra water before, during, and after swimming. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can irritate the bladder.
Don’t hold urine while swimming. Take breaks every 30-60 minutes to empty your bladder fully. Keeping urine in your bladder allows more bacteria buildup.
Take a Pre-Swim Shower
Shower with warm, soapy water before getting into pools, lakes, or oceans. Washing the perineal area removes some bacteria that could enter the urethra during swimming.
Avoid High Chlorine Pools
Opt for saltwater pools or pools with minimal chlorine. Heavily chlorinated water can worsen UTI irritation and symptoms. Low chlorine pools still provide adequate sanitation.
Wear a Clean Swimsuit
Bacteria and chemicals can linger on swimsuits. Put on a fresh, clean swimsuit to avoid introducing bacteria into your urinary tract. Change out your suit after swimming.
Urinate After Swimming
Shower and urinate shortly after exiting the pool to flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra during swimming.
Making some simple lifestyle changes can help prevent recurrent UTIs if you are prone to them:
- Stay hydrated and urinate when needed
- Urinate before and after sexual activity
- Wipe front-to-back after using the toilet
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products
- Take probiotics to support urinary tract health
- Consider taking UTI prophylactic antibiotics after swimming
See your healthcare provider if you experience multiple UTIs within a year. They can recommend the best prevention strategies for your situation. Do not worry, occasional swimming with a mild UTI is possible for many women. Listen to your body and avoid swimming if symptoms worsen.