Swimming With Open Wounds

When you have an open wound, it is not advisable to swim in any body of water. Germs could infect your wound and you may expose other swimmers to germs and exudate coming from your wound.

A swimming pool. (Image: Erin Cadigan/iStock/Getty Images)

Recreational Water Illnesses

A recreational water illness, or RWI, is caused by coming into contact with germs in a body of water. RWIs can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, skin, ear, neurologic or wound infections. All swimmers share the water and the germs within. In a pool, water is recycled through a filtering system. While chlorine in swimming pools kills most germs that cause RWIs in less than an hour, certain types of germs may take hours or days to kill even in properly disinfected pools.

Healthy Swimming Tips

Healthy swimming practices prevent RWIs from spreading to others in the water and may help you from acquiring an RWI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not swimming when you have diarrhea, avoiding swallowing pool water and practicing good hygiene by showering with soap before swimming and washing your hands after using the bathroom.


Besides exposing other swimmers to germs from an open wound, germs in the water can make you sick or cause your wound to become infected. Lakes, rivers and even the ocean can be contaminated with bacteria from various sources. Some germs can even survive for a long time in salt water. When you have an open wound, it is a portal of entry on your body for various germs and lead to infection. It is advisable to wait until an open wound is covered by skin or healed before swimming.

Pool Rules

If you want to swim in a public pool, most facilities have rules that prohibit swimming with open wounds. If you get into the water with an open wound, skin and exudate might pollute the water. While these bodily tissues are not associated with the same risk as fecal material, everyone will have to be removed from the pool while the skin is removed and chlorine levels are checked.

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