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Is It Safe to Swim After Transplant?

woman swimming

Summer is here and there are many opportunities to enjoy the warmer temperatures. For lung transplant patients, it's important to know what precautions might be necessary for you to enjoy summer fun safely. 

If swimming is on your list of warm weather activities, take a minute to check out this interview with Emily Blumberg, MD, a national expert in transplant infectious disease and a member of the infectious disease team here at Penn. 

Interview with Dr. Blumberg

We asked Dr. Blumberg to explain the risks involved in swimming and her recommendations for avoiding infections while enjoying the activity.

Why is it important for lung transplant recipients to learn about safe swimming?

We know that significant infections can result from water exposure, so it’s critical for lung transplant recipients to understand:

  • where it is safe to swim;
  • where it is not safe to swim; and
  • when it is not safe to swim.

Where is it safe for lung transplant recipients to swim?

It’s safe for lung transplant patients to swim in chlorinated pools and, in most cases, the ocean is also okay but patients should avoid swimming in the Chesapeake because the presence of some dangerous bacteria has been found there in recent years.

If lung transplant patients experience any kind of abrasion while in the ocean, the abrasion should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and an uncontaminated water source - not the water you are swimming in - to minimize the risk of infection.

Where is it unsafe for lung transplant recipients to go swimming?

The easy way to remember where it’s not safe to swim is remember that freshwater swimming represents a high risk for infection. So it’s not safe for lung transplant recipients to swim in fresh water of any kind, which includes ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers and streams. Since it’s often part of vacation recreation, it’s probably helpful to mention that, because of several infection risks, hot tubs should be avoided.

When is it unsafe for lung transplant recipients to go swimming?

If a lung transplant recipient has an open wound of any kind it is not safe to swim at all. In addition, swimming should be avoided if a patient is being treated for rejection.

Remember, if you have questions about safe swimming, before you go, contact your transplant coordinator to verify that swimming is safe option for you.

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The Penn Medicine Transplant blog features short postings with news about the transplant program at Penn Medicine, notices about upcoming events and health information. Subscribe to the blog and stay connected with Penn's Transplant Program!

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