Can a kid’s penis really get trapped in swimsuit mesh?

It feels like every summer there’s a social post by a traumatized parent warning others about the dangers of mesh lining in bathing suits. We decided to get to the bottom of it.

Every summer, the same story makes the rounds on social media: At the end of a fun day at the pool, a parent helps her son change out of his swim trunks, only to find that his penis is stuck to the internal mesh lining and can’t be removed. The story usually concludes with the child requiring a trip to the Emergency Department, and the parent always warns others to cut out the mesh from their kids’ swimsuits immediately.

We wondered: Does this really happen? Should parents cut the lining? Before you grab your scissors, read on.

Why do swim trunks even have mesh?

The white mesh layer inside boys’ swimsuits is supposed to act as a protective barrier for genitals. According to the swimwear brand Bermies, the mesh prevents chafing from contact with the swim trunks’ fabric, and holds everything close to the body to prevent any accidents while swimming. Clothing retailer Lands End says basically the same thing; its suits usually include mesh because it adds a soft texture that protects the skin from fabrics that aren’t as soft. The mesh also provides good drainage when you’re swimming, and good airflow when you’re not. Finally, the mesh can also add a layer of modesty.

How could a penis possibly get trapped in the mesh?

Put simply, the foreskin can become entrapped within the tiny holes of the mesh, where it swells up and gets stuck. If you can’t picture it and you’d like to see what that looks like, click here (but don’t say we didn’t warn you).

How often does this happen?

Given how often stories on this topic trend online, it seems like it could be something to worry about. But penises getting stuck in mesh lining is actually a very rare occurrence.

In this report, written by doctors who helped an eight-year-old whose penis became trapped in mesh, the authors describe this phenomenon as wildly rare: “Foreskin entrapment is an uncommon event in the pediatric population, and bathing suit mesh as the cause is exceedingly rare.”

Toronto-based paediatrician and founder of Kidcrew Dr. Dina Kulik says that she’s never seen this happen in her practice—and in fact, had never even heard of it. “I have never seen foreskin injury from bathing suits,” Kulik told Today’s Parent. “I don’t think it is a common enough concern for parents to be worried.”

Should you remove your kid’s mesh liners?

Kulik doesn’t think it’s necessary for parents to remove the mesh lining from their boys’ bathing suits. If you would feel more comfortable snipping it off, though, go right ahead—there’s really no big downside. But the next time you see this topic pop up on social media, keep in mind that it’s an extremely unlikely occurrence that shouldn’t prompt much concern.

What should you do if this happens to your child?

It’s highly unlikely that it will. But if it does, do not try to forcibly remove the mesh on your own, or you risk causing your child unnecessary pain. A healthcare provider can use local anesthesia, then remove the mesh with fine scissors. If the entrapment is alleviated quickly, swelling and pain are likely to resolve rapidly.

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