elephant swimming in the ocean
Beach and Water Safety

Common Questions About Swimming In The Ocean

In this article, we answer the following commonly asked questions about swimming in the ocean:

Ah, that’s a fair number of questions.  Now let us get to the answers, courtesy of our resident beach expert / life guard, Barbara Anne!


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH A PIERCING?

This one is the most asked question, and the answers do somewhat vary depending on where your piercing is.

Generally speaking, the healing times for new piercings are as follows:

TONGUE

Two to four weeks.

EAR TOP

Six to eight weeks.

EAR LOBE

Six to eight weeks.

NOSE

Up to six months.

BELLY BUTTON

Six months to a year.

These are average healing times.  Obviously in cases such as tongue piercings, as long as you keep your mouth shut you should be alright!

The general advice before swimming would be to wait at least 24 hours after any new piercing. The same would apply to sea swimming.  You want to keep the piercing dry while in the sea, which will mean covering it up.

If there are any signs of infection, redness, soreness, discharge, then avoid swimming and seek medical help, as it may be infected.  Basically, you are meant to keep the piercing completely clean and dry until it has healed.

On to the next question…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WHILE ON A PERIOD?

The simple answer to this should always be, if you want to, of course you can!  Just do as you would normally do with your tampons.

There is not much more to it than whether you feel you can actually be bothered with swimming at all!

Moving on…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH CONTACTS?

Short answer is no. This is not advised due to the risk of infection, which could be serious.  You are not advised to swim in the ocean, or even get wet while wearing most types of contact lenses.

If you were to swim in the ocean with contacts, the best type to have would be disposables, which can then be thrown away, eliminating the risk of infection.

On to the next question from our list…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WHILE PREGNANT?

Yes you can, but it’s a good idea to check the cleanliness of the water at the beach you are bathing in.  Make sure it passes current guidelines.

The thinking is, you don’t want to take any unnecessary chances with bugs or infections right now.  If it’s been raining a lot over the last 24 hours, you might want to think again, as this can affect the quality of the bathing water substantially.

Then all the usual precautions, don’t overheat, bring UV protection and watch for jellies!

Moving on…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH A NEW TATTOO?

Hmm.  The odd splashing might be fine, but really, if you are planning something major such as a tattoo, then  you really want to reschedule stuff such as ocean swimming for a few weeks afterwards, in order to let it heal.

At the end of the day, this is an open wound, and needs a chance to close up before you start deep sea diving.  All scabs and peeling should be completely gone before you embark on any type of swimming.  About four weeks is probably the minimum time we would wait.

Next, we answer whether you can swim in the ocean with eczema…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH ECZEMA?

Yes.  At least, you might as well try it.  Some people have reported that swimming in the sea is beneficial for their eczema.

So far, the evidence is only anecdotal, but it is worth trying to see if it works for you.

Make sure to go armed with all your usual sun cream and moisturizer for afterwards/ during your swim though!

On to the next question!


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH HAIR EXTENSIONS?

Oh dear, I sense a fight brewing between the ‘experts’ on this one.  Depending on the type of extensions you have, the advice wavers between ‘don’t ever get them wet’ (err.. practicality, nul points!) and ‘try not to get them wet’.

In general the advice is to do your extensions into a bun or a braid, to rinse through immediately with clean tap water afterwards, and to try and use an appropriate serum or de-tangler when you get out.

Pretty much the same as we would do for our natural long tresses, in fact.

It might just be best to avoid all contact with the water if possible, and opt for a swim cap.  Check with the hairdresser who put them in for more care instructions.

Moving on…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH A CUT?

Although salt water has healing properties, this does mean a sterile solution.  Not the ocean, which is far from sterile.

I do not advise going swimming with an open wound of any description at all.

Best to bandage it up, or better still, wait until it’s begun to heal.

Next, we discuss whether you can swim in the ocean with a burn.


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH A BURN?

This is once again, dependent on the type of injury, and degree of burn you have, but in general the answer is NO.

If it’s a mild burn (not second or third degree) it might be alright, but we would advise caution, and checking with your doctor.

Also, to aid general recovery, we need to point out that you should be extra careful to cover your burn up at the beach, and make sure you do not expose it to sun damage.

Moving on to the next question from our list.


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN AFTER SURGERY?

Of course this might depend on the type of surgery you have just had.  You should be asking your surgeon this question.  This advice is only general here.  Firstly, give the wound a chance to heal, and make sure you follow the guidance regarding stitches.

After that, here is a general list of some types of surgery and the waiting times that should lapse before attempting to swim with the fishes!

APPENDECTOMY – Wait two weeks, or until after the stitches/ wound has healed.

BREAST SURGERY – Wait (at least) two weeks

CATARACTS –  After two weeks, you might be able to wear googles.  Wait another two (four weeks in total) to try and swim without them to be safe.

CORNEA TRANSPLANT – Wear goggles!  Wait at least a month, or as long as your surgeon tells you to.  No diving, as the impact could affect your eyes.

HEART BYPASS SURGERY – Three months minimum, consult your surgeon.

HERNIA SURGERY – Not advised at least for a week – or even to get in a hot bath! Depending on if there are stitches/ wounds, it might even be longer.  Some people say they’ve been ok after two or three weeks, others are longer.  Check with your doctor to be sure.

HIP REPLACEMENT – Waiting two to three months is the general advice.  Some surgeons think the breast stroke is best avoided though!

HYSTERECTOMY – If you feel up to it, you may swim as long as your wounds have healed.  Two weeks should be the bare minimum to wait before attempting very light swimming.  At least a month should pass before trying anything more substantial.  As well as the risk of infection, there is also the risk of over exerting yourself.  Please consult your doctor for more specific advice.

LASER EYE SURGERY – Bare minimum, wait two weeks and wear goggles for the first six. … or what your doctor advises.

Moving on…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN AFTER GIVING BIRTH?

Wait until the bleeding stops.  The advice is not the same as a ‘normal’ period, as there is a risk of infection, and you want to wait until the cervix has closed.

This may be a four to six week wait.  If there were complications, or a caesarian involved, it may be longer.  A lot will depend on how you are feeling.

Next, we talk about babies swimming in the ocean.


CAN A BABY SWIM IN THE OCEAN?

Er…not exactly swimming.

No matter how many swim classes you and your baby may have already had in the pool, you are not about to take them ‘swimming’ in the sea.

Hold your baby closely and in shallow, clean (as possible) sea water.

General advice seems to be wait until about six months to make sure your baby’s immune system is developed enough to cope with it.

Moving on to the next question from our list.


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN AFTER I DYE MY HAIR?

Right after, probably not a good idea.  As you most likely already are aware, the first couple of times after you dye your hair, the color could still run when it is washed/ gets wet.  

If you are going to swim and get your head wet, wear a hat, or at least try and plait it/ put it out of reach of the salt water.

Even after the dye is no longer at risk of running, the salt water can definitely cause fading.  Here, it is all a question of degree of risk.  How often are you planning on sea swimming?  Occasional plunges may be fine, regular immersions may cause lasting damage.  

If you are a dedicated sea swimmer, and have dyed hair, it might be best to invest in a hat for swimming and/ or some decent color protector shampoo, conditioner and serums.

We all know the damage that dyes can do to the condition of our hair, never mind heaping on salt water abuse, and then the drying affects of too much sun.  Remember, it’s not just your skin that will need moisturizing!

Moving on!


CAN I SWIM IN THE SEA WITH EYELASH EXTENSIONS?

Yes.  The first twenty four hours after they have been applied is the only time to avoid getting them wet.  In actual fact, these should be better than wearing mascara in the sea as they won’t run!  

Generally, it is oil based products (such as make up remover) that will cause the problems here. Consult your beautician or stylist who applied them for more information.

The next question is for those who like Brazilian blowouts.


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN AFTER A BRAZILIAN BLOWOUT?

Yes you can do, like any other time you swim in the sea, it may affect the condition of your hair. Special hair serums and masks can help protect your hair after your Brazilian Blowout treatment, to prolong its longevity.  

Check with the stylist who did the treatment to purchase them.

Be warned, like anything, repeated sea swimming will cause the biggest problems rather than a quick dip.

Moving on…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH SHINGLES?

Are you still contagious?  The risk is probably greater to others than yourself by doing this.  Of course, if you still have open sores and weeping wounds, then do not even consider doing this, for health reasons to both yourself and others.

If the blisters have healed and dried over, it is seen as less risky to others, but still take care, and remain vigilant with your general skin care.  Sharing towels is a no no, be careful of sun exposure, and so on.

Next, we answer if you can swim with stitches.


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH STITCHES?

The general consensus of the medical world on this one is a ‘no’ we’re afraid.

Yes, as mentioned there are some healing qualities associated with salt water, but we must once again re iterate the fact, that this is only clean, sterile solutions, not sea water.  And yes, it might be alright depending on the type of stitches you have, but probably best not to, overall.

Check with your doctor to make sure, but we think you really should wait until the stitches have either been removed, or dissolved, and that your wound is beginning to heal properly before commencing leaping into the ocean.  Cover them up until then, or better still, wait.

The next question is related to dogs.


CAN A DOG SWIM IN THE OCEAN?

Salt water is poisonous to dogs (not just dogs, but they are more prone to ingesting it).

If you do take your dog to the beach, make sure there is plenty of fresh water on hand to give him.  Watch out for signs of salt water poisoning, and be sure to get Fido to a veterinarian if you think this is happening.

The main signs would be vomiting, seizures, being generally unwell, tiredness, diarrhea, and lethargy.

 There is also the potential for your dog to become harmed by ingesting algae or other marine life.

Finally, how good a swimmer is your dog?  There may be strong undercurrents your pooch is not expecting.  Has he even tried swimming somewhere that is safer first eg. a paddling pool?

Also, consider your own safety, every year people die trying to rescue their pets from drowning. 

On to the next question…


CAN I SWIM IN THE OCEAN WITH A YEAST INFECTION?

Yes you can.  If this is a vaginal infection, then you may want to change out of your damp, clinging swimsuit at the first opportunity, and into something dry, loose fitting and airy for more comfort.  

It is sitting around in wet, warm conditions, that will make this particular problem worse!

We have reached the last question from our list.


CAN ELEPHANTS SWIM IN THE OCEAN?

And… finally the question that everyone wants to know – can elephants swim in the ocean? Well, apparently, yes they can!  In fact, if you think about it, how else did they travel from one place to another. It is speculated that they are actually capable of long distance ocean swimming.

So not only can they swim, but they enjoy a good dip in the ocean as well.  After all, they do have a built in snorkel!

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