How Long to Wait After Surgery Before Bathing

When You Should Shower, and When You Can Take a Bath and Swim After Surgery

Woman, aged 59, running a bath in front of a large window.
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You just had surgery and nothing sounds better than a nice, relaxing bath. But wait! Your doctor told you to avoid bathing and swimming, so when can you safely take a bath?

When is it Safe to Bathe After Surgery?

Plan on waiting at least two weeks after your surgery to take a bath, or before going swimming, unless your surgeon has given you specific instructions otherwise.

Now, just to be very clear, "not bathing or swimming for two weeks" doesn't mean that you should not be cleaning your body on a routine basis.

It means that you should take a shower or a sponge bath until you can safely soak in water without risking complications with your incision.  

How many weeks you should wait after your surgery will depend on the type of surgery you had. If you have a cast on your leg, soaking in a bath tub would be a bad idea, as would bathing or swimming if your incision has not healed, regardless of the type of procedure that you had. 

To be clear, if your incision isn't completely closed, or there is an obvious gap in your incision where an area hasn't closed, don't soak in a bath or go swimming.  There is a serious infection risk with swimming--even more so than with bathing--as your bath water is made of clean tap water.  

Don't even think of swimming in anything but a pool for a few additional weeks--there is far too much bacteria in rivers, streams, ponds, hot tubs, and other bodies of water that could cause a significant infection in an open wound.

The safe answer is this: if you are in doubt, don’t do it.

When You Can Take a Bath and Swim After Surgery

After laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery, you can take a bath and swim once the tape strips holding the incision closed have fallen off.  If your incisions have fully closed, you can take a bath without fear of hurting your incision.

If you had an open procedure, with the larger traditional incision, you will want to wait until your surgeon removes the staples holding the incision closed before you take a bath. This typically happens about two weeks after surgery.

Some surgeries require postponing bathing for an extended period of time. After a hysterectomy, for example, the patient should refrain from taking baths for a minimum of six weeks, and the same is true for swimming.

In all cases, refer to the discharge materials you were given after surgery, which should include your surgeon’s specific instructions for bathing. If there are no instructions regarding baths, call your surgeon’s office; the staff should be able to provide a specific time frame.

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