In this article, Nate Kapa and Scott Baranek, Certified Prosthetists at Bremer Prosthetics, answer the question: Can you get your prosthesis wet?
If you’re looking for information specifically about swimming, read Can I Swim While Wearing My Prosthetic Leg?
A barrier that many amputees aren't sure if they can cross is getting in the water, and it’s a question that often comes up during the summertime. What if you’re out walking and get caught in the rain? Who doesn't enjoy being at the beach when the weather is nice, or out on the boat?
There's a common misconception that a prosthesis can't get wet, or that it can't be submerged in water—and from that misconception, many amputees believe that they can't do things like swim, walk through a puddle, or be out in the rain.
But does wearing a prosthesis today actually mean that you'll never be able to get in the water again? It turns out that most of today's prostheses are water resistant (with very few exceptions).
Because of new advances in technology, your prosthesis can get wet—whether you get caught in the rain, want to go swimming, or if you accidentally walk through a puddle.
It was the case in the past that a prosthesis could not get wet, but because of advancements in technology, most of today's prostheses are made from materials that are resistant to water exposure.
Prostheses have historically been made out of steel, and water is corrosive to steel. For these prostheses, any exposure to water would cause the steel to corrode.
Today, most of the parts in your prosthesis are resistant to splashing and rain, and you can even walk through a mud puddle without having any issues.
Today’s prostheses are made from stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum, and all of these materials are resistant to corrosion by water.
The foot of your prosthesis can be exposed to water without causing mechanical problems. If your prosthetic foot is exposed to sand and you think sand or debris may have gotten in the foot, we recommend seeing your prosthetist for a quick cleaning and inspection.
Silicone liners and sleeves can get wet, and they can stay wet while you're still wearing them. However, the moisture can be uncomfortable.
For example, if you were to put on a pair of pants over the wet sleeve, and it was to get the pants wet, the moisture wouldn’t cause any long-term problems with the prosthesis itself, but it might feel uncomfortable to wear and cause skin breakdown.
If your liner gets wet from swimming, we recommend removing your wet liner and putting on a liner that’s dry. The most effective way to dry your liner is to allow it to air-dry overnight.
The same is true for your suspension sleeve: if it gets wet, allow it to air-dry overnight. In the morning, it will be dry, and you'll be able to put it on again.
The answer is yes—you can walk with your prosthesis in the ocean! But before you do, it's important to understand how to care for your prosthesis after it's been submerged in salt water.
Unlike fresh water, salt water can be corrosive to your prosthesis, especially if it isn't rinsed with fresh water after going swimming in the ocean.
Along with salt water, chlorine is also corrosive to your prosthesis.
If your prosthesis is exposed to salt water or chlorine from swimming in the ocean or in a pool, thoroughly wash your prosthesis with fresh water after swimming to preserve its longevity and prevent corrosion.
If you're unsure whether or not the electrical components in your prosthesis are waterproof or water-resistant, ask your prosthetist before exposing it to water.
Today, it's common for people to have electronic components that are a part of their prosthesis.
Many of the electronic components in prostheses are water resistant, although not all of them are. They can be exposed to mud puddles and rain, and they can withstand getting wet from having a drink spilled on them, for instance.
Prostheses with water-resistant electrical components can usually be fully submerged in water for short amounts of time without causing issues, and some electronic prostheses are waterproof and can be fully submerged for long durations of time.
The electronic prostheses that are fully waterproof can be used for swimming and wading out into the water at the beach.
Many patients are curious about scenarios where they might not necessarily want to get in the water, but are around the water where there’s a possibility of accidentally getting wet. For example, if they are on a boat and accidentally fall in.
Nate and Scott are often approached by their patients who want advice about whether or not they should participate in water activities, like boating, during the summer.
Scott remembers one time, during the first week of June, one of his patients called him on a Sunday to tell him that “he had the opportunity to go kayaking this weekend.” The patient wanted to know what he should do. Scott responded by saying, “have fun.”
Scott knew that this patient would be kayaking in fresh water, and that in one week, Scott would see him at an appointment where he’d be able to look at his leg to make sure everything was good to go.
In a different instance, Nate recently worked with someone who is a newer amputee, and just before her prosthesis was finished, she told Nate, “I know I can’t get in the water now. Going to water parks was the thing that I loved doing.”
Because she said something before her prosthesis was finished, Nate was able to change the design of the prosthesis so that it could be easily used in the water. Now, this patient is going to water parks and places like Myrtle Beach, doing what she’s always loved to do.
The biggest takeaways from all of this: If you know that you want to be in the water this summer, make sure that you tell your prosthetist about how important it is to your life that you are able to be active in the water.
The primary job of your prosthetist is to make sure that you have all of the tools that you need to live your life without limitations. One of the most important tools that your prosthetist should give you is knowledge about what you can and cannot do with your prosthesis.
That includes whether or not you're able to get your prosthesis wet, as well as what kind of aquatic prostheses are available for your summertime needs.
Although your insurance company will determine what kind of prosthesis you can get, it's important to be aware that a prosthetist can design a specialized aquatic prosthesis so that you can swim and enjoy water sports freely.
As long as you communicate with your prosthetist, there are few to no barriers in the way of getting in the water while wearing your prosthesis.
If you have any questions about what you read in this article, you can call us at (855) 977-1300.
We're happy to expand on what we said above, and give you more information, so that you have the opportunity to live your life without limitations.