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When Can I Get My Incision Wet?

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Updated June 23, 2013

Question: When Can I Get My Incision Wet?
Surgical incisions are usually kept dry in the immediate days following surgery. But you may be anxious to shower, swim, or get your incision wet. Each doctor varies in particular recommendations, but here are some general guidelines for when an incision can get wet.
Answer: As mentioned, each doctor treats incisions their own way, so always check with your doctor if it's OK to get your incision wet! There is little scientific evidence to support the claim that a wet incision will get infected, but many doctors have this concern.

In general, most doctors will ask you to keep an incision dry until:

  • The incision is no longer draining

  • There are no signs of infection (redness)
Most often, an incision can get wet about 48 hours after surgery. In some situations, your doctor may also ask you to wait until the sutures or staples holding the skin have been removed.

Also, many doctors recommend that incisions are not soaked (in a bath, swimming pool, or Jacuzzi) until the wound is completely healed.

These recommendations have limited scientific basis. However, there may be real concerns with getting an incision wet too soon. Therefore, always check with your doctor before getting your incision wet.

When you are permitted to wash your incision, you should use a mild soap, and never scrub an incision. Be gentle on the skin surrounding the incision, and allow any scabbing to fall off without pulling at loose skin and scabs.

Sources:

Carragee EJ, Vittum DW "Wound care after posterior spinal surgery. Does early bathing affect the rate of wound complications?" Spine. 1996 Sep 15;21(18):2160-2.

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