Try to keep your stitches (sutures) dry for at least the first 48 hours. After this it may depend on:
- what type of wound and dressing you have
- what advice you’ve been given by the healthcare professional who treated you
Getting stitches wet in the first 48 hours
Research in 2006 compared two groups of people with stitches:
- the first group were allowed to get their stitches wet within 48 hours of having them
- the second group had to keep their stitches dry and covered for the first 48 hours
The research found that getting stitches wet within the first 48 hours didn’t increase the risk of infection. However, waiting 48 hours may be the safest option.
After 48 hours, it's possible for stitches to get wet briefly with a light spray (such as in the shower), but they shouldn’t be soaked (for example, in the bath). Make sure you pat the area dry afterwards.
Your healthcare professional will tell you when you can get your stitches wet or if they need to be kept dry.
If you have a dressing over your stitches, avoid getting it wet.
Some dressings are waterproof, so you could wet your dressing lightly, for example, with the spray from a shower. However, you shouldn’t submerge your dressing under water. If you’re not sure whether your dressing is waterproof, then avoid getting it wet altogether.
Do not remove the dressing unless advised to do so by a healthcare professional.
Keeping stitches dry
If you’ve been advised to keep your stitches dry:
- try covering your stitches when you have a bath or shower (special waterproof covers are available, or you use a rubber glove or plastic bag)
- try having a wash standing in a bath and using a cloth to clean yourself, avoiding your stitches
- after washing, dab your stitches dry with a clean towel, even if the wound area didn't get wet, to ensure that the area is completely dry
If your stitches get wet accidentally, simply dry the area immediately with a clean towel and make sure all the moisture around the stitches is soaked up.
If your stitches get wet and you’re concerned, call your GP for advice.
Last Updated: 18 November 2011