Can I Go Swimming With Stitches?

May it be because of an accident or a planned surgery, getting stitches is not really a rare occurrence. The problem, though, is it can get very inconvenient. This is most especially if you’re planning to take a swim sometime after getting stitches.

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Now, some people go directly to swimming with stitches on the knee or any other part of the body. However, without prior knowledge, it can lead to several health risks. For instance, the stitches can get infected.

To help you with this concern, this article will try to answer the question, “Is it OK to swim with stitches?”. Then, in the next sections, we’ll dig deeper into what you should know about swimming and stitches.

Can You Swim With Stitches?

If you’re looking for a short answer, then it’s both a yes and no. This is a conditional situation.

You can swim with stitches if it’s past the 48-hour ban. During the said ban, you can’t get your stitches wet. This applies no matter the type of stitch used on your body. After that, then you can take a swim if you really need to.

However, if it has been more than 48 hours, you can take a swim. The only exception is when your doctor used absorbable stitches. If this is the case, then you need to wait until your body absorbs the stitches. It doesn’t matter how long it has been.

All in all, if your incision wounds are not yet fresh, then you can’t take a swim. On the other hand, if you’re only worrying about stitches and it’s fully healed, then you can feel free to do so.

Can You Swim in a Chlorinated Pool With Stitches?

Experts don’t recommend swimming in a chlorinated pool if you have stitches. This is because chlorine can irritate your wounds. Ultimately, your stitches can get infected.

If you’re looking into swimming in a public chlorinated pool, then you have to take extra caution. Better yet, totally avoid it. Not only will you be exposed to chlorine, but there’s also a high chance of bacteria exposure. Sanitary issues are also a crucial factor to consider.

Private pools are not that dangerous if you’re the only one using them. It will also be safe if it’s newly cleaned. The only thing that you have to worry about is chlorine. If swimming is necessary, however, you can take protective measures for your stitches.

Overall, you should avoid swimming in public chlorinated pools. For private pools, you need to keep your wounds and stitches covered to prevent interaction with chlorine. We will discuss how to do this in the later sections.

Can You Swim in Salt Water with Stitches?

If you’re going to swim in saltwater, you need to leave surgical stitches alone for at least 2 weeks. If you do this despite the warning, there is a high chance of your stitches getting infected. This is due to the unseen bacteria, algae, and species underwater.

Moreover, if you don’t prep it beforehand, you may feel a stinging pain from your wounds.

Anyhow, swimming in saltwater won’t benefit your wound or stitches at all. The belief that saltwater will help in recovery is also just a myth. If it’s not necessary nor a life-and-death situation, it’s best to avoid saltwater in the meantime.

When Can I Swim If I Have Stitches?

The most crucial thing to remember if you have stitches is the 48-hour rule.

As the general rule of thumb, you can’t wet your stitches within the first 48 hours. This means that you can’t shower, dip, and of course, swim in these two days.

Now, why is it 48 hours?

Professional health experts say that a cut that needed stitching takes 24 to 48 hours before the skin starts to heal slowly. They coin it as the growth time of epithelial cells. For the first 24 hours, the skin takes its time to grow back. However, when it reaches 48 hours, it starts to seal off the wound. This protects it from several infections.

Note, though, that bigger surgeries require more time to heal. For instance, cornea transplants won’t let you swim for a whole month. Stitches from hip replacement surgeries will take even longer. Approximately, it can take 8 to 12 weeks.

Moreover, stitches assisted by a plaster cast or metal frames are totally restricted from being wet. For the time period, you need to refer to your doctor’s advice. This is because more factors need to be taken into account for this suture type.

What Will Happen If You Swim With Stitches?

Considering that you follow all the safety measures like the 48-hour rule and your doctor’s prescriptions, you can expect a low-risk and safe swim.

On the flip side, if you choose to ignore health and safety rules, then here are some things that may happen:

  • Increased risk of infections
  • Slower wound recovery
  • Possibility of enduring physical pain
  • Complications with previous surgery
  • Accidental removal of stitches
  • Wounds stay open and fresh longer

If you go through any of the adverse effects above, you should immediately go to a hospital. In this way, you can avoid severe infections.

Taking the risks into account, it’s just right that you follow safety measures to avoid surgical complications. Not only can it lead to worse wounds, but it can also cause more expenses.

Can Your Stitches Get Infected When Swimming?

New stitches are very prone to infection. This is why doctors tell their patients to avoid getting it exposed to water and open air. On a side note, even sutures that are close to recovery can still get infected. Although there is a lower chance, it’s impossible for a wound to completely be invincible to contaminants.

Taking this into account, it’s just right that you either avoid swimming or cover your stitches with waterproof bands before doing so.

Is It Better to Wait Until Stitches Are Removed?

Of course, it’s better to wait until your doctor removes the stitches before taking a swim. For greater safety, wait until your wounds are fully healed. Once it gets to that point, you can swim in any pool, sea, ocean, and anywhere you like.

Depending on where your stitches are, their removal can take from 5 to 21 days.

For instance, if it’s on the face, you have to wait for 5 to 7 days. This is the same with those on the neck. Scalp stitches can take 10 days at the very least. For upper extremities, it can take 10 to 14 days. And finally, for lower extremities, stitches will stay for 14 to 21 days.

Keep in mind that the larger the wound and suture, the longer time for stitches to heal and be removed.

If you want to shorten the healing process, you can always ask your doctor for prescriptions. It can be topical or oral antibiotics.

How to Know if Your Stitches Are Ready for Swimming

To know if your stitches are ready for swimming, you first have to know what kind of stitch. To be specific, you should ask if you have permanent stitches or absorbable ones.

Permanent stitches are the most common procedures. More often than not, if you have a schedule for stitch removal, it’s most likely that you have this stitching.

To know whether you can swim with permanent stitches or not, here are the signs to consider:

  • Your wound, incision, and stitches don’t hurt at all
  • You’re on the healing and recovery side of the process

For absorbable stitches, you have to wait until your body absorbs the stitches fully before getting them wet. Unfortunately, this can take from a week to several months. It will depend on how your body will react to the stitches.

To be surer, you can also ask your doctor about the specific timeframe on when you can swim again.

How to Prepare Your Stitches Before Swimming

If it’s vital for you to swim, here are some things that you can do to keep your stitches safe:

Assist dressing with waterproof bandages.

Before putting on the dressing, make sure that your wound, incisions, and stitching are totally protected by waterproof bandages. This will add another layer of protection for your stitches.

Use a waterproof dressing.

If you’re not sure about whether your current dressing is waterproof or not, ask a professional to replace it with a new and waterproof one. You can also do it yourself if you’re able to. Either way, make sure that your stitching is fully covered. You should also opt for a high-quality material so you can avoid even the littlest water from seeping in.

Using waterproof bandages and dressing will significantly lower the risk of infections.

Follow prescriptions from your doctor.

To ensure that your stitches are recovering and will stay that way, follow the prescriptions that your doctor gave you after surgery. This can include antibiotics, ointment, and likes. If you don’t have one yet, then make sure to ask your doctor for some beforehand.

If you feel like your stitches are getting wet despite the dressing and bandages, it’s best to immediately go out of the water. You should also look out for initial signs of pain or soreness on your stitching.

How Can You Keep Your Stitches Dry While Swimming?

Apart from using waterproof bandages, as well as a dressing, there is nothing else that you can do. Because swimming will require you to submerge and dip in the water, you just have to rely on your dressing.

If your wound is on the head, neck, or upper extremities, then you can also resort to pools with lower depths. In this way, you can better avoid getting your stitches wet.

How to Take Care of Stitches After Swimming

Apart from prepping your stitches, you also need to do some things to take care of them after swimming. See the following:

Change the dressing.

Even if your dressing is waterproof, you should still change into a new one after swimming. This is the same with the bandages that you used. This is to prevent the formation of bacteria on your wounds and incisions.

Remove all the moisture on your stitches.

Moisture can prevent your stitches from having a quick recovery. When you remove the dressing and bandages, you will surely find your stitches moist.

To remove this, you can simply pat your wounds with a towel. Use the pat-dry method lightly.

Follow prescriptions.

Again, apply a new set of topical ointment if there is. Doing this will compensate for the time that your wounds and stitches are submerged in water and moisture.

Keep your body rested.

After swimming, no matter where your stitches are, it’s best to keep your body rested. Doing this will help you avoid discomfort and pain in the long run. You should also check if your stitches look different or worse than earlier. It will help you know if there are initial signs of infections.

Here are some changes that you should look out for:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Unpleasant smell
  • Redness
  • Wound is too warm
  • Pus or bleeding

Once you experience these, call for health assistance as soon as possible.

To avoid these, it’s best if you limit your swimming time to a few hours. You can also choose to rest in between swimming sessions. This is to prevent unwanted infections from blocking your stitches’ recovery.


All in all, let’s summarize the answer.

Generally, experts don’t recommend getting your fresh stitches wet. You need to wait for at least 48 hours. Once you pass the time limit, then you can take a swim.

If it’s not necessary, you should avoid chlorinated pools. This is most especially if it’s in a public place. There is a higher risk of infection because it will expose your wounds to more bacteria. Moreover, chlorine may irritate your stitches. This is the same for salt water. The latter may even cause you more physical pain.

On the other hand, if you really need to swim, you can take preventive measures. These will keep your stitches away from many contaminants.

However, note that each body has a different way of coping with stitches. Hence, it’s best to ask your doctor for more specific advice about taking a swim.

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