It depends on the type of surgery you have 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 before it's healed) – 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 3 to 14 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 also shouldn't swim if you're wearing a plaster cast or you have an external fixation device – a metal frame that holds your bones in position – 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 going swimming:
- cornea transplant – avoid swimming for at least 1 to 3 months 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 can swim once your wound has healed and you can get into a swimming pool safely (usually at least 6 weeks), but some surgeons advise against breaststroke
- coronary artery bypass graft – you can swim after 3 months
- cataract surgery – you should avoid swimming for 4 to 6 weeks
- appendectomy (after having appendicitis) – you can swim after your stitches have been removed, the wound has healed and you have made a full recovery (usually at least 2 weeks)