Getting stitches is never fun. The last thing you want is for them to get infected or come undone. So if you’ve recently had stitches, you may be wondering if you can swim while they heal. Here’s what you need to know about swimming with stitches.
How Long Should You Wait Before Swimming With Stitches?
The general rule of thumb is to wait until your stitches have fully healed before going swimming. For most types of stitches on the skin, this takes around 7-10 days. However, you’ll want to follow your doctor’s specific advice on when it’s safe to swim, as the recommended time can vary.
For stitches on the face, head, hands, feet, or over joints, your doctor may advise waiting longer, like 10-14 days. Deeper stitches, like those used internally or after surgery, may take several weeks to heal.
Swimming too soon can cause stitches to loosen or split open. Chlorine and bacteria in the water can also increase infection risk. So it’s important to wait until stitches are completely healed and sealed.
Precautions To Take When Swimming With Stitches
Once your stitches are adequately healed, it should be safe to go swimming. However, you may want to take some precautions to protect them:
- Cover stitches with waterproof bandages or adhesive strips if possible. This prevents pulling from the water.
- Avoid hot tubs, lakes, rivers, and ocean swimming. Stick to pools with well-treated water.
- Rinse off stitches with clean water after getting out of the pool to wash away chlorine and germs.
- Pat dry stitches gently with a clean towel. Don’t rub the area.
- Shower and wash as normal, but avoid scrubbing or submerging the stitched area.
- Apply antibiotic ointment after swimming to prevent infection.
- Avoid swimming long distances until stitches are completely dissolved.
- Skip swimming if stitches are sore, red, or oozing. This could signal an infection.
Swimming Strokes and Activities To Avoid
Certain swimming strokes and pool activities may be too risky soon after getting stitches:
- Butterfly stroke – The whip kick motion can put a lot of strain on fresh stitches. Stick to gentler strokes like freestyle or backstroke.
- Diving – Hitting the water with force may tear or tug at stitches. It’s best to avoid diving boards, slides, or jumps until fully healed.
- Water polo – The grabbing, throwing, and treading water can disrupt stitches. Play it safe by sitting this sport out.
- Competitive swimming – Racing, sprints, and other strenuous laps may loosen or pop stitches. Take it easy with leisurely swimming only.
- Water rides and slides – Water park attractions tend to be very rough on fresh stitches. It’s smart to just relax in the wave pool or lazy river.
While swimming with mild soreness or recently dissolved stitches may be okay, stop immediately if you feel any intense pain, pulling, bleeding, or separation of the wound. See your doctor if stitches appear damaged after swimming.
Signs Your Stitches Have Healed Properly
How can you tell if your stitches are ready for swimming? Here are some signs they’ve healed adequately:
- The stitches feel secure, with no oozing or splitting open.
- The skin around the stitches looks normal, with no redness, swelling, pus, or increased pain.
- Your doctor has cleared you to swim and get the area wet.
- It’s been at least 7-10 days since you got the stitches on your skin. Longer for deeper internal stitches.
- The stitches begin dissolving or falling out on their own around 10-14 days. This shows the laceration has closed up.
- You’re able to gently wash, pat dry, and move the area without discomfort.
Get your doctor’s opinion to confirm your stitches have fully sealed before swimming. Once the wound is completely closed, stitches are intact, and you’re past the initial healing period, taking a dip should be safe.
Swimming After Stitches: The Bottom Line
Swimming with stitches may be possible if you take the right precautions. The most important rule is to wait until your stitches are fully healed, typically at least 7-10 days. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on when it’s safe to swim. Use waterproof bandages, avoid infection risks, and steer clear of strenuous swimming to protect your stitches. With adequate healing time and care, you can safely enjoy the pool again after stitches. Just listen to your body and don’t overdo activities that could compromise the stitching. Be smart, take it easy while healing, and you’ll be back to swimming in no time!