For most people, it’s impossible to avoid going through surgeries and accidents. And you have to put a halt to many of your daily activities once you get stitches. If you’re a regular swimmer who recently got stitches, you might be thinking, can you go swimming with stitches or not.
Yes, you can go swimming with stitches but only after your wounds get fully healed. In general, submerging the wound in water is banned for 48 hours. Stitches on a minor wound take two to three days to start the wound healing process, whereas a deep incision will take at least one week. No matter how deep the wound is, doctors, recommend not swimming for at least two weeks.
Should You Go Swimming With Stitches?
It fully depends on the stitch type and condition of your wound. As a rule of thumb, you need to wait for at least two days if you want to swim with stitches.
Now, there are two types of stitches:
1. Permanent Stitches
This type of stitches is mostly done on common minor wounds. Permanent stitches are stronger, and a doctor typically removes them after they have healed.
Luckily, such stitches take a very short period to heal properly, and you just have to wait for one week to get into the swimming pool with permanent stitches.
2. Absorbable Stitches
Dissolvable or absorbable stitches are done when sutures are needed to cover wounds. Your body naturally absorbs the stitches, and there’s no need to remove them separately.
Avoid soaking the absorbable stitches in water until they get fully absorbed, no matter how long it takes. Otherwise, you might end up softening the tissues around your wound and increasing the risk of infection.
Apart from the stitch type, you should also consider the condition of your wound. It’s generally safe to swim once the skin around a minor wound is healed. But, you need to be extra careful in cases of large incisions. It also matters where the surgery was done.
For example, in cases of knee surgeries, getting the stitches healed isn’t enough to go swimming. Because strokes, let’s say, breaststroke, rely on the flexibility of your legs and knees. Hence, swimming strokes might put extra pressure on the wounded area, causing the incision to burst open.
So, if you have had major surgery, wait for at least 12 weeks to ensure a risk-free swimming experience.
Doctors advise not to swim with stitches if-
- You have no clearance from your surgery specialist, doctor, or physiotherapist
- The wound hasn’t healed or stitches absorbed (for absorbable stitches)
- You’re still experiencing post-operative pain
- The water source isn’t monitored or maintained regularly
How Long After Stitches Can You Go Swimming?
Various body parts require different times for wound healing. In general, the epithelial cells around the wound take 48 hours to regrow. So, you need to avoid swimming and bathing altogether for at least three days as new skin starts to seal the wounds.
It’s best if you can wait until the stitches are removed. Otherwise, let the stitches dry and wait for one week in cases of minor injuries and at least four weeks for major surgery stitches.
To avoid any further injury, always take your doctor’s advice to know whether you can swim with stitches or not.
The following are typical suture removal times, but these can vary depending on the health care professional performing the procedure:
- Joints: 14 days
- Arms and legs: 10-14 days
- Trunk: 7-10 days
- Scalp: 7-10 days
- Face: 3-5 days
- Cornea Transplant: 4 weeks
- Hip Replacement Surgery: 8-12 weeks
- Stitches with Plaster Cast: Until fully healed
Potential Risks of Swimming With Stitches
When you swim with stitches, you open the gate to many potential risks. Infection by bacteria and parasites is the most common and dangerous threat to fresh surgery wounds.
Below are the short and long term health complications you’ll face if you swim without preventive maintenance;
Increased Risk of Infection
Ocean, lakes, rivers, and other natural water sources are potential carriers of water-borne germs, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungus, etc. Even chlorinated pool water isn’t free from germs and might have the same effect on stitches as regular water.
Aquatic microbes can easily reach your wound, and a minimum amount of contaminated water is enough to cause severe infection in your skin. Therefore, you should always take the necessary precautions before swimming.
Delay Wound Healing
As you know, your body cells require a certain amount of time to start the healing process. Close contact with salt or chlorinated water affects the tissues around your wound and slows the healing process.
Besides, the water will cause irritation and swelling of the soft tissues. If you have other medical issues like diabetes, it will get worse and take forever to heal. Wrapping the area with waterproof plasters or bandages can be greatly beneficial in that case.
Pain and Scars
If a fresh wound comes in close contact with treated water or saltwater, it will cause terrible pain in the area. Submerging your body in deep water can increase your blood pressure which eventually causes internal bleeding. This way, you’ll end up having multiple serious health issues and immense pain.
Apart from pain, scars are also a big issue. You’ll naturally get scars after the doctor removes sutures, but such scars will fade away after some time. However, if you swim with stitches, the scars won’t heal and become permanent on your body.
Accidental Stitch Removal
When you swim, the water puts pressure on your body parts. Now, it’s a good workout in normal conditions, but this extra pressure isn’t very good for your stitches. The soft tissues around your wound don’t regain their tensile strength for about four weeks.
This means the wounded area won’t be able to take the pressure of swimming strokes during that time. So, your stitches might accidentally burst open and expose the wound at a higher risk of infections.
How Do You Protect Your Stitches While Swimming?
By now, you already know the risk factors associated with swimming with stitches. Yes, it’s essential to wait for seven days to avoid the risks. But, if you want to swim after this period, you need to take some necessary safety measures. Here’s what you can do you protect your stitches while swimming-
Add Protection Layers
Before swimming, make sure to cover the stitches properly using a plaster cast and waterproof adhesive bandage. First, clean the wounded area thoroughly to make sure there are no trapped bacteria underneath. Then apply an antibacterial spray to disinfect the area.
Add a layer of waterproof bandages so that the possibility of infection decreases. Wear goggles if the wound is near the eye area.
Use Waterproof Dressing
Be sure to cover the stitches with a waterproof dressing. Get a high-quality material that can prevent even the tiniest drops of water.
After that, you can cover it with a waterproof plaster to ensure a good seal. For the best results, try various sizes of plasters and choose the most efficient one. Once you’re done with the plaster, you’re ready to go into the water.
If you feel water seeping in, get out of the water immediately.
Change the Dressing
Although the plaster and bandages are waterproof, you must change the dressing after getting out of the water. This will prevent the formation and growth of bacteria and fungus.
Air Dry the Stitches
As you know, water and moisture will slow the healing process of your wound. So, it’s important to quickly remove the moisture after swimming.
Use a clean towel to pat on the wounds and then air dry the area. After that, use the ointment prescribed by your doctor to avoid the chances of infection.
Check Your Stitches
To avoid pain and discomfort after swimming, give your body some rest. In the meantime, examine your stitches to see if something looks different. This way, you’ll be able to identify the signs of infections.
Redness, swelling, pus or bleeding, and unpleasant smell are some negative signs. If you experience any of these, immediately contact your health provider.
Always Consult Your Doctor
Please note that none of the above tips or suggestions are intended to replace medical advice. Consult a physician if the wound is out of your control or you’re unable to properly clean the wound.
What your doctor says is greatly beneficial to obtaining the minimum amount of risk and avoiding chances of infection from swimming.