While they can be a nuisance, UTIs, or urinary tract infections, can usually be treated at home by drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol1. However, you might be wondering “Can I safely swim with a UTI?” In this article, we explore the potential risks and benefits of swimming with a UTI, and whether oceans, hot tubs and swimming pools are safe to use.
UTI symptoms to look out for
For an in-depth explanation of what UTIs are, please read this blogpost. Briefly, a urinary tract infection is a microbial infection that affects the urinary tract, i.e. the bladder, urethra and kidneys.3 They have various causes, including inadequate personal hygiene, pregnancy and kidney stones4, and are usually treated with self-care, though some cases may require antibiotics. Some common symptoms include:
- a strong, persistent urge to wee
- a burning sensation with urination
- cloudy or bloody (pink) urine
- passing frequent small amounts of wee
- pelvic pain in women5
Can I swim when I have a UTI?
Swimming is a great form of exercise particularly suited to those with bladder issues, as it’s gentle on the pelvic floor6. But is it safe to swim when you have a UTI? Unfortunately, there is very little advice from medical channels on the safety of swimming with a UTI. However it does appear to be safe; as you already have an infection, there’s little risk of you catching one7. Furthermore, as long as you continue to treat the condition, then it appears you can continue to swim. Also, urinary tract infections are not contagious8, so you can’t spread them to others.
Can swimming cause a UTI?
There are some circumstances in which swimming may cause a UTI. Wherever you swim, staying in a damp, tightfitting swimsuit afterwards may allow bacteria to breed and travel up the urethra.9 To counter this, make sure to dry off as soon as you have finished swimming. Sweaty clothes can also be a breeding ground for germs10, so make sure to change after exercise. The chance of infection also depends on where you go swimming.
Can swimming pools cause UTIs?
While you can swim with a UTI, can swimming pools cause a UTI? Swimming pools are generally treated with chemicals to prevent infection. However, there is a small chance they may cause UTIs. Chlorine in pool water can be particularly irritating to women and girls’ urinary tracts11, so make sure to rinse properly after swimming. Conversely, if the pool is improperly treated, it can be a breeding ground for germs that could cause UTIs12. If you have concerns, you can speak to the pool staff about how the pool is treated. Showering after swimming may also help to avoid infection.
Can hot tubs cause UTIs?
In rare cases, UTIs can be caused by hot tubs too.13 As with swimming pools, hot tubs are also treated with chemicals to avoid spreading infection. However, a bacterium known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be present in hot tubs and cause urinary tract infections.14
Can swimming in nature cause UTIs?
Depending on the cleanliness of the water, swimming in nature (such as in the sea or a lake) may cause a urinary tract infection. Research shows that swimming in the sea may cause UTIs, gastrointestinal tract infections and ear problems due to farm run-off and sewage in the seas off the coast. However, as long as you take reasonable precautions, experts say you can still take a dip.15 Lake swimming comes with an increased risk of infection in general, so our tips are:
- don’t swim in brown, murky water – only swim in clear water
- don’t swallow the water
- stay out of the water if you have any wounds16
When you’re on dry land, leaks may occur with a UTI. To manage these leaks, try the iD range. They are dermatologically tested, discreet and comfortable, and come in a range of styles to suit everyone’s needs.
1 “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), NHS, 18 November 2020, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/
2 “Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women Management”, Ahmed Al-Badr and Ghadeer al-Sheikh, 25 June 2013, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/
3 “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), NHS, 18 November 2020, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/
5 “Urinary tract infection (UTI)”, Mayo Clinic, n.d., Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
6 “Swimming and Interstitial Cystitis – Is it safe?”, Jill H. Osborne, 4 June 2014, Source: https://www.ic-network.com/swimming-interstitial-cystitis-safe/
7 “Can Swimming Pools Cause a UTI? Is it Safe to Swim With One?”, Josh Koop, n.d., Source: https://poolbuyeradvice.com/can-swimming-pools-cause-a-uti/
8 “When Should You Avoid Swimming?”, SwimJim, 6 November 2019, Source: https://swimjim.com/blog/when-should-you-avoid-swimming/#:~:text=Although%20UTIs%20are%20not%20contagious,swimsuits%2C%20until%20your%20UTI%20heals
9 “How to Enjoy the Pool Without Getting Sick This Summer”, Jennifer Chesak, 2 July 2019, Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/swimming-pool-germs-safety
10 “Take Steps to Avoid a UTI this Summer”, Urology Care Foundation, 13 July 2016, Source: https://www.urologyhealth.org/healthy-living/care-blog/take-steps-to-avoid-a-uti-this-summer
11 “Urinary tract infection (UTI) in Children over 3 months old”, NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, n.d., Source: https://www.oxfordshireccg.nhs.uk/documents/patient-info/health-advice/UTI-in-Children-Leaflet.pdf
12 “Summertime UTI”, Madison McGuire, 9 July 2019, Source: https://sites.utexas.edu/think-twice/2019/07/09/summertime-uti/
15 “Skip the dip? Swimming in the sea increases risk of illness, analysis suggests”, Nicola Davis, 27 February 2018, Source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/27/skip-the-dip-swimming-in-the-sea-increases-risk-of-illness-analysis-suggests
16 “Swimming and Interstitial Cystitis – Is it safe?”, Jill H. Osborne, 4 June 2014, Source: https://www.ic-network.com/swimming-interstitial-cystitis-safe/