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When can I go swimming after plastic surgery?

Like most major medical procedures, plastic surgery requires diligent recovery and aftercare recommendations. Although you can often return to work just days after a procedure, you will often be advised to avoid heavy lifting, running, or strenuous activity for anywhere from a week to a month or more.

If you resume vigorous physical activity or exercise too soon after plastic surgery, you run the risk of serious health complications. Certain activities can increase the risk of bleeding, swelling, or infection, and others can strain incision sites or sutures, causing them to rupture or reopen.

Swimming after plastic surgery

After you’ve made some changes to your body, it’s only natural that you’d want to head to the pool or lake with your renewed confidence and new look. Before you plan a trip involving swimming or water activities, it’s important to make sure it’s safe for you to go into the water.

While swimming is considered a low-impact activity, it can still pose a threat to fresh incisions and stitches. Cosmetic surgery often involves deep tissue and muscles that you may never have noticed, with sutures placed in several layers. Because of the “weightlessness” you feel in the water, you may be unaware of body movements that strain sutures, disrupt incision sites, or even cause scars to stretch, affecting their future recovery. External improvements in incision areas or scars do not necessarily mean everything on the inside has healed completely.

Moreover, wet, saturated sutures from being fully submerged may take longer than you think to dry out, becoming breeding grounds for bacteria and risking infection. Swimming makes keeping incision sites or sutures dry nearly impossible.

Risk of infection

All water, even treated, can harbor trillions of microorganisms. Many of them are harmless as long as they stay outside of your body. However, they become dangerous or even life-threatening if they enter an open wound or sore—like an incision site.

Chlorinated water. Chlorine is good for water, not for incision sites or sutures. The chemicals in chlorinated water can irritate raw skin.

Oceans, lakes, or rivers. Both salt and freshwater bodies naturally harbor contaminants and microorganisms that can cause infection when they enter the body or the bloodstream.

Hot tubs. The high heat in hot tubs makes them riskier than pools, saltwater, or freshwater. Because of this, you may have to wait a bit longer for a hot tub that you would for swimming in cooler water.

When can I swim again after plastic surgery?

Different procedures have different recovery times in regards to how soon you can submerge yourself or even get incision sites wet. Though you may be allowed to shower after 24 or 48 hours, some general guidelines for swimming and full submersion are:

Remember, these are just estimates. Every procedure is different, and every body is different when it comes to recovery. Be sure to attend all follow-up appointments with your plastic surgeon, and consult him or her before resuming exercise or physical activity. If you aren’t sure about a particular activity, be sure to contact your surgeon; it truly is better to be safe than sorry.

When you do resume water activities, do so gradually. Be cognizant of incision areas, sore muscles, or other sensitive areas. As with any physical activity, going too hard too fast and too soon can backfire. Not only could you injure yourself, but you may inadvertently cause harm to your new physique.

Sun exposure after plastic surgery

Whether you are in the water or near it, be sure to protect your incision sites. Scars are more sensitive to sunlight, and, with too much sun exposure, can grow darker than the surrounding skin. Make sure you use plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen or cover your scars completely until they are fully healed.

Waiting can be hard when you are ready to show off, but it is well worth it. Swimming too early is an unnecessary risk and one that negatively affects your optimal results. You have invested time, money, and emotions into this procedure; don’t jeopardize your results by risking your health.

Have questions about swimming after plastic surgery? Ask Dr. Tim Love!

Dr. Tim R. Love is a board-certified plastic surgeon with over 30 years of experience helping people find their best bodies. He remains at the cutting edge of innovations in cosmetic techniques and technologies, and he is committed to delivering flattering, flawless results that look at feel natural.

Dr. Love offers a sensitive, professional approach to patient care. He takes the time to discuss your goals and concerns, establish realistic expectations, and create an individualized treatment plan that helps restore your confidence and self-esteem. If you are considering plastic surgery, call our office today at (405) 751-LOVE (5683) or contact us to schedule an initial consultation.

Swimming after plastic surgery infographic with wait times

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