Swimming, Suits & Mesh: Cut the Lining of Your Child's Suit to Decrease Irritation Potential

By Danelle Frisbie, PhD © 2010
Originally published in Tidewater Parent Magazine

Summer is here! And with the warm and sunny days come trips to the local swimming pool, beach and lake. Every year at this time something surprising happens to many little tykes sporting their new swimsuit -- it's something that no one talks about, and often leaves parents perplexed as to what is really going on. It is what I lightheartedly call the "mesh monster" in our child care classes. That is, the mesh lining in many swimsuits is simply not a good match for the developing genitals of babies and children, and the results are something we see each year, especially among boys.

For boys who are no longer intact (i.e. they were circumcised), the extra sensitive glans (head) of the penis is left exposed, as is the meatus and opening to the urinary tract. The friction of a mesh liner can quickly exacerbate irritation, inflammation, callusing, chaffing, soreness, and may even cause blistering. In addition, the mesh assists in holding sand, salt, algae, and the bacteria that comes with these water-elements close to the genitals - further increasing chance of irritation or infection - not a good thing when striving to avoid UTIs (urinary tract infection) and other discomforts that can occur, especially in early childhood.

For boys who remain intact, the glans and meatus are protected (one function the foreskin serves) but the mesh liner of many suits is just big enough to allow for a trapping of the prepuce (foreskin). Ouch! The same also occurs with many girls (and adult women) each year if their suit or underwear is not made of solid, 'closed' material - the labia, and even external parts of the clitoris, may become pinched in mesh of any kind. Most cases of skin entrapment go unreported, but in 2006, the journal of Pediatric Emergency Care reported on three such cases when children ended up in the ER with penile injuries due to their prepuce becoming pinched in the mesh lining of their swimsuits.

No matter a child's sex, keeping wetness, sand/salt/debris from the ocean or lake, or chemicals of a pool close to the genitals is not a good idea. It throws off the delicate balance of pH and healthy microflora, increases irritation, and is cause of countless "redness" reports each year (commonly diagnosed as 'balanitis' at a physician's office). For this reason, do not have your child swim in underwear or items that don't allow for quick drying and 'breathing.' Use real swimsuits (or cloth diapers without inserts) made of fabric that wicks away and dries quickly. And when prepping this year's suits, cut the mesh liner from the suit before use. This is quick and simple to do - grab a scissors and carefully cut along the stitched-in ridge at the top of the suit. Your child will thank you, and you'll have less redness, irritation, and potential skin entrapment to deal with.

If redness does occur: coconut oil and Calmoseptine are two quality items that will not increase risk of yeast overgrowth, or further throw off pH and microflora balance of the genitals. Coconut oil alone (with some air dry time and warm water only baths) will be enough to soothe inflammation in some cases. If not, Calmoseptine will take care of everything, quickly. You can purchase at tube upon request at your local pharmacy. Always be sure to rinse with clean, fresh water post-swimming.

To prevent redness that repeats itself: apply Calmoseptine ahead of time to 'at risk' areas of the body. This is typically especially the case where swimsuit material (or a diaper, underwear) rubs on or touches the body. The Calmoseptine will serve as a barrier cream and reduce the irritation during swimming summer days. Again, be sure to rinse briefly with clean water after swimming in a pool, lake or the ocean.

If skin entrapment in a liner that was left in place occurs: GENTLY, slowly, and carefully apply vaseline or another slippery ointment if you have some nearby; stretch or tear the mesh with a tweezers or your fingers, if you are able, and/or use a scissors to cut the mesh away from the body, using extreme caution not to cut the ultra sensitive tissues of the genitals. Sliding into luke-warm water will also allow for relaxation, and a change in blood flow - potentially loosening the mesh grip on tissues as well. Post-freeing, apply Calmoseptine and/or take a soak in warm water (with Epsom salt if desired) to reduce inflammation and support the body in healing itself.

Related reading at the Intact Care Resource Page

Graphic courtesy of Intact Indiana


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