How soon can I go swimming after surgery?

It depends on the type of surgery you’ve had, but you shouldn’t go swimming until:

  • your surgeon, GP or physiotherapist has confirmed it’s safe for you to do so
  • your wound has healed (it shouldn’t be submerged under water) – ask your surgeon how long your wound will take to heal
  • your wound doesn’t cause pain

Generally, after your stitches have been removed or have dissolved and your wound has fully healed, you should be able to swim in the sea or a swimming pool. Once a wound has healed, the risk of infection decreases.

Stitches can usually be removed within 7 to 10 days of surgery, although it depends on the type of wound. Absorbable stitches can take longer to dissolve.

You should avoid swimming for longer if you have another condition that increases your risk of infection or delays healing. You shouldn’t swim if you have open wounds.

You should also avoid swimming if you’re wearing a plaster cast or you have an external fixation device, until your surgeon advises that it’s safe to do so.

Swimming after different types of surgery

Depending on the type of surgery, you may need to avoid swimming for some time, even after your wound has healed.

Below are some examples, but you should always check with the healthcare professionals treating you before swimming.

  • cornea transplant – avoid swimming for at least one month and until you’re advised that it’s safe; wear goggles to protect your eye from an impact injury and don’t dive in
  • hip replacement – you should feel back to normal after 8 to 12 weeks, when you can return to your usual activities, such as swimming, but some surgeons advise against breaststroke
  • heart bypass surgery – you can swim after three months 
  • cataract surgery – you may be able to swim wearing goggles after two weeks, and without goggles after four weeks 
  • appendectomy (after having appendicitis) – you can swim from around 10 to 14 days afterwards, or once the wound has fully healed

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