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How to Waterproof a Wound for Swimming

Kevin Cleary

Key Takeaways

  1. Swimming can expose you to bacteria that can infect an open wound, especially in the ocean or a lake.
  2. It’s important to properly dress your wounds with a waterproof or water-resistant dressing before swimming.
  3. Microorganisms in water can infect any wound, even one that is in the process of healing.
  4. Certain wounds, even those properly dressed, should not be exposed to swimming until your doctor gives permission.
  5. Dressing a wound for swimming can be easily done, and HPFY has the supplies you need to enjoy your dip.


Who doesn’t like taking a cool dip in the pool, lake, or ocean during the long, hot days of summer? Some may think that a wound may prevent them from taking that refreshing plunge. It turns out that if properly done, waterproofing your wounds can allow you to swim safely. In order to swim safely, waterproof bandages may be your best option. Any activity, including swimming, where wounds may be exposed to water requires waterproofing. Not only can this introduce bacteria, but it also can dilute antibacterial ointments or other topical treatments, causing infection. Hopefully, I can shine a light on this for you.

No Swimming…If

Yes, waterproof bandages can make it safe to swim, but there are instances when you might want to take a hard pass on swimming. Some of these instances can include:

  • Open wounds or sores
  • Bleeding wounds
  • The tissue around the wound is red
  • Head/facial wounds
  • Wounds with stitches (until removed)

You should avoid or delay your dip if you have an injury, such as an ear infection, or if the skin around your wound is too fragile and sensitive. While the best time to go swimming is after your wound has completely healed or scabbed over and there is no risk of infection, waterproofing your wound is necessary to be entirely safe.

How to Waterproof Your Wounds

Since swimming with a wound that is still healing can dilute or wash away antibacterial ointments, it’s important to make sure that you dress your wounds properly. If not, the possibility of contamination from bacteria increases the risk of infection. Steps you can take to waterproof your wounds are:

  1. Check Your Water: By identifying where you will be swimming, you can determine your risk of exposure to contaminants such as bacteria. Lakes, beaches, and rivers can contain more bacteria and cause other wounds due to rough surfaces.
  2. Understand Your Wound: The type of wound you have can determine the method of waterproofing you need. For instance, for a wound that is deep/jagged, you may need to take additional steps to keep it dry when swimming, whereas shallow wounds may only require a waterproof bandage.
  3. Use the Right Bandage: Two types of bandages that are available include waterproof bandages and water-resistant bandages. Even though they sound similar, there are significant differences so be sure to read each label carefully to determine if they are right for you.
  4. Waterproof Plaster: These are designed just as they sound. They cover your wounds and create a waterproof barrier between your wound and the water. Be sure to dry completely around your wound, then peel the adhesive and apply it to the wound. Be sure to smooth it out to avoid any possible seepage. You can incorporate waterproof tape around the edges for additional waterproofing.
  5. Waterproof Tape: Any waterproof wound dressing you use could benefit from the additional security of applying waterproof tape along the edges to prevent leakage. Make sure the area you’re taping is completely dry, as well as the dressing you’re securing.
  6. Use a Wound Sealant: In order to make a wound waterproof, wound sealants create a barrier between your wound and the environment around it, including water and other liquids.
  7. Start with a Barrier: Before you start swimming, clean your wound and the area around it, pat it dry, and apply an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly. After, apply your waterproof bandage or dressing over the area. Use waterproof tape if needed.
  8. Observe and Reapply: While some bandages claim to be “waterproof” or “water resistant,” they do lose their effectiveness over time. If your bandage is exposed to water for long periods, eventually, they will allow water through, so be sure to inspect your bandage after every dip and reapply as needed.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While swimming with a wound can be done safely, you should seek medical attention when you experience discomfort or pain. Also, if the skin around your wound becomes warm and red, an infection is possible. Wounds that are exposed to water can heal slower due to the risk of wound reopening. Remember, new wounds are more susceptible to infection, and if you should have any questions, you should consult your physician before swimming.

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HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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