Is it better to have a bath or shower after surgery?

It’s usually better to have a shower after an operation because you can control the flow of water and, if necessary, prevent getting your wound wet.

Avoid having a bath because your wound shouldn't be soaked in water until it has healed.

Guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that you can have a shower 48 hours after surgery. However, you should check with your surgeon because it may depend on the type of surgery you’ve had and how your wound has been closed.

You'll be given advice about caring for your wound before you’re discharged from hospital.

Dressings

Some dressings are waterproof and can withstand a small amount of water - for example, the spray from a shower. However, don't submerge your dressing under water. If you’re not sure whether your dressing is waterproof, avoid getting it wet altogether.

Depending on where your dressing is, you could cover the area to stop it getting wet in the bath or shower. For example, after having hand surgery, you may be able to wear a large rubber glove or cover your hand with a plastic bag.

You can also buy waterproof covers to protect a dressing or plaster cast on your arm or leg so you can shower without getting your wound wet. Ask one of the healthcare professionals treating you if you would like more information.

Stitches (sutures) or clips

Avoid getting stitches or clips wet. If you can cover the stitches so that they don’t get wet, then you may be able to have a shower.

For more information, see Can I get stitches wet in the bath or shower? and How do I care for my stitches (sutures)?

Plaster casts

You should not get your plaster cast wet. You may be able to hold your arm or leg out of the shower or wash around your cast. For more information, see How should I care for my plaster cast?

After your stitches, clips and dressings have been removed

You should be able to wash normally after your stitches, dressings and clips have been removed. However, it’s usually better to have a shower until the wound has healed to avoid soaking it completely. Afterwards, pat your wound and the surrounding area dry.

Contact your GP or call NHS 111 if you're worried about your wound.

Read more answers to questions about accidents, first aid and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 07/04/2014

Next review due: 06/04/2016