Can swimming and a need for oxygen therapy mix?

The summer and holiday season is only round the corner, looking forward to swimming in the villa pool or in the sea. For those suffering with lung disorders requiring oxygen therapy this may seem like a fantasy, but it doesn’t have to be.

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If you have lung problems swimming could be the perfect exercise for you. As your body is floating it’s less strenuous on your breathing and can help to improve your fitness and breathing. It’s so beneficial that it even helps people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People with COPD have a decreased lung capacity and get less oxygen with every breath than healthy people; therefore they tire out more quickly with just regular activities like walking or vacuuming. But those who exercise in a pool or swim lightly often end up with less breathlessness and can walk longer on land because of their lungs becoming stronger. It is a form of exercise that you can control, you can stop and start when you wish and go at a speed that suits you.

If you swim regularly at a private pool to improve your confidence and fitness then swimming on holiday won’t be an issue and you can enjoy your holiday more.

You may think that it is impossible to combine oxygen therapy and swimming but there are those that have managed it with some handy hints to share:

•    Go to the swimming pool at a quiet time or when there is a slow lane available. Sometimes the swimming pool offers lessons or times for disabled or poor swimmers.

•     You can have your POC at the side of the pool ready to use if you feel short of breath.

•     Start off slow and don’t push yourself too hard or fast. It will take time to build up your lung strength and fitness.

•     You can get extra tubing to use with your cylinder and ask someone to walk alongside you in the pool to carry your cylinder as you do laps. You can ask your provider for spare tubing and cannula that you can use as a spare ‘swimming set’. Check with the pool staff first to ensure they don’t mind you doing this.

•     You can walk to and from the pool to increase your exercise and use your oxygen on the way there and on the way home and have it by the pool, so if necessary you can use it after each lap. As your fitness improves you will hopefully use it less and less.

•     You can get an inflatable cushion and have your oxygen machine floating alongside you as you swim if you need oxygen constantly. Many find they can still use it in shallow and calm sea water too so you can swim in the sea on your holiday.

•     If you’re worried about the warmth and humidity of an indoor pool severely affecting your breathing you can go and visit and sit by the poolside with your oxygen to ‘test the waters’ first.

•     There may be an option for you to use your rehab pool at the hospital for a while so that you can get used to swimming in a more controlled environment which will help with your confidence before venturing to a public pool, ask your doctor about options.

•      There are water-proof cases that you can buy for your oxygen cylinder so that you can have it in the water with you.

•     Start off slowly with just floating, walking around and exercises before moving onto short bursts of swimming and then onto laps. Do what you’re comfortable with doing and progress at your own speed.

•    Please note: Some indoor pools with water that contain a high level of chlorine and have bad ventilation might do you lungs more harm than good.

Obviously it depends upon the stage and severity of your lung condition and your reliability upon your oxygen and which equipment you use but there are options and ways around it. For most people they are able to take up swimming using these handy hints and find that after a period of time their fitness improves both in the water and on land and they become less reliant upon their oxygen. Also it means that you can then swim on holiday and enjoy the sun, sea and sand more!

If you require oxygen still on holiday whilst swimming or just want to have a back-up POC nearby on the shore or by the pool side then there are global oxygen supply companies that can supply these for you whilst you are on holiday in whichever country you’d like to visit.

References: http://www.healthunlocked.com and http://copdathlete.com

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