When is it Safe to Swim After Surgery?

Woman in bikini relaxing in the pool

A common goal among my Las Vegas cosmetic surgery patients is to look and feel more confident in a swimsuit. Naturally, these patients want to get back to the pool as soon as possible—particularly with the hot weather we’ve been experiencing here in Vegas. However, swimming too soon after cosmetic surgery can put your health and results at risk.

Why it’s worth the wait

You probably know that you have to take time off of exercise after surgery, and swimming is no exception. In fact, swimming is typically off-limits a little longer than other activities. Bodies of water including oceans, lakes, pools, and hot tubs—even those treated with chlorine—are home to trillions of microorganisms. While this is normally nothing to worry about for a healthy person, jumping in the water too soon after surgery poses an unnecessary risk of infection to your incision sites. Plus, swimming too soon after cosmetic surgery can strain your incision sites and cause scars to stretch, contributing to a poor scar appearance down the road.

When it is safe to get in the water after cosmetic surgery depends on the procedure you are having, how active you are in the pool, and your individual healing rate. To get an idea of when you might be pool-ready after surgery, take a moment to review what I typically require after the following popular procedures:

Breast augmentation

After breast augmentation, most patients cannot wait to show off their new curves in a brand new swimsuit. While you’ll be looking and feeling great shortly into your breast augmentation recovery time, bodies of water present an elevated risk of infection to your incision sites. While showering is okay just 24 hours after your procedure, you should not submerge your incisions for about four weeks after surgery

Bodies of water present an elevated risk of infection to your incision sites.

How soon you are allowed to swim also depends on how you want to spend your time at the pool—will you be swimming laps or just dipping your toes in the water? Even after you are allowed to take a quick dip in the pool, your chest muscles may need up to six weeks to recover before undertaking vigorous activity like swimming. Check with your doctor to get the all-clear!

Body contouring

Body contouring covers a wide range of procedures, so when it is safe to swim depends heavily on what was done. Liposuction patients can usually get back into the pool several weeks after surgery with their cosmetic surgeon’s approval. However, it is imperative that the incisions have healed completely and that you do not engage in strenuous exercise like lap swimming for at least three weeks.

If you are having a tummy tuck, expect to wait about two months before getting back in the water. A tummy tuck is a complex procedure—incisions are made well below the skin’s surface, and internal sutures are placed in several layers. These take time to heal completely and even after your scars start looking good on the surface, the risk for infection remains for several weeks afterward.

Rhinoplasty & facial surgery

Since facial surgery incisions are above the head, you can get back into the water a little sooner than with body procedures. Baths or a cooling soak in the pool are typically permitted after two weeks; just keep your head above water to protect your incisions.

You have to be especially careful with swimming after rhinoplasty. In addition to keeping your incisions safe from infection, you also need to protect your nose from bumps and excessive force. That means no diving, water volleyball, or water slides are allowed for a minimum of six weeks. When you are cleared to resume swimming, you may have to do so without goggles for awhile, as goggles can place too much pressure on the nasal bridge.

Scars are more sun-sensitive than surrounding skin and can darken with sun exposure.

After any cosmetic surgery procedure

No matter what procedure you are having, follow your cosmetic surgeon’s instructions regarding swimming or any other activity. Also, make sure your incision sites are properly shielded from the sun, even after they are mostly healed. Scars are more sun-sensitive than surrounding skin and can darken with sun exposure. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen or keep the area covered by clothing whenever you go outdoors.

If you are ever unsure if an activity is okay after your surgery, give your cosmetic surgeon a call. He or she is the best resource you have when it comes to reliable advice about recovery.

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