Common Health Questions

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 avoid your wound if necessary.

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

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that you can have a shower 48 hours after surgery. However, you should check with your surgeon, as it may depend on:

  • what kind of surgery you’ve had
  • how your surgical wound has been closed

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

If you have a dressing

Don't get your dressing wet. Some dressings are waterproof, so you may get your dressing slightly wet, for example, with the spray from a shower. However, you should not 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 surgery on your hand, 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.

If you have stitches (sutures) or clips

You should not get 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 my stitches (sutures) wet in the bath or shower?

If you have a plaster cast

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?

If your stitches, clips and dressings have all been removed

You should be able to wash as normal. A shower is usually better as you won't soak the wound like you would if you had a bath. You may find this advice helpful:

  • don’t soak your wound until it has healed, so don’t sit in the bath or let the shower spray directly onto it for too long
  • don’t rub the area after your shower, pat it dry with a soft towel
  • don’t pick any scabs that form

If you’re worried about your wound, contact your GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

Last Updated: 21 March 2014