Can You Swim With Road Rash?

It’s common sense that if you’re wounded, you should rest until your wound is recovered. Do not participate in any activities that might exacerbate your injury or expose it to bacteria. So if you have road rash, do you think it’s a good idea to go swimming?

can you swim with road rash

You should not swim with a road rash. Water environments contain various bacteria and microorganisms that can introduce infection risks to open wounds. Additionally, the chlorine found in many swimming pools, while effective in neutralizing harmful bacteria, can be abrasive and irritate the wound, causing discomfort and potentially delaying the healing process. 

In this article, we will go over the numerous risks of swimming with road rash and how you can speed up the recovery process so you can quickly head back into the water for a few more dips before summer ends.

Risks of Swimming with Road Rash

Risk of Infection

Swimming environments, regardless of whether they are natural bodies of water or chlorinated pools, contain various bacteria and pathogens. An open wound, such as road rash, presents a vulnerable point of entry for these microorganisms. 

Introducing the wound to such environments elevates the risk of bacterial invasion, potentially leading to infections. Such infections can complicate the recovery process and may necessitate medical intervention, including antibiotic treatments.

Irritation and Pain

Chlorine, while effective in sanitizing swimming pools by neutralizing harmful bacteria, can be abrasive to open wounds. Similarly, the salt content in seawater can be harsh on exposed, raw skin. 

Contact with these substances can induce significant irritation, manifesting as a stinging or burning sensation in the wounded area. This not only causes discomfort but can also impede the skin’s natural healing process.

Moisture Retention

A conducive environment for wound healing is typically clean and slightly moist. Completely submerging a wound, such as road rash, is a little bit excessive. Prolonged exposure to a damp environment can compromise the wound’s healing trajectory, potentially increasing the duration of recovery. 

Additionally, a perpetually moist wound can become an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, escalating the risk of infections.


The natural healing process of the skin can be disrupted by factors such as excessive moisture, irritation, or physical activity. When the healing process of a wound like road rash is disturbed, it increases the likelihood of scarring. Depending on individual skin types and the severity of the initial injury, scars can vary in appearance, from subtle discolorations to pronounced keloids.

Slowed Healing

Engaging in physical activities like swimming increases the body’s metabolic demands. Consequently, resources, including oxygen and essential nutrients, might be reallocated to cater to active muscles rather than to the healing of wounds. This redistribution can decelerate the healing timeline of injuries, including road rash.

Further Physical Injury

Swimming in natural water bodies introduces variables such as underwater obstacles, currents, or waves. Even in controlled environments like pools, there is a potential risk of collisions with the pool’s boundaries. 

Such incidents can exacerbate the damage to an existing wound or potentially introduce new injuries. It is paramount to protect wounds from any external physical threats to ensure optimal healing.

For these reasons, you really should consider waiting until your road rash has fully healed before you decide to head into the water. Next, we will discuss some commonly asked questions about swimming with road rash.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you wait before swimming after getting road rash?

The duration one should wait before swimming after getting a road rash depends on the severity of the injury. Minor abrasions that only affect the outer layer of the skin may heal within a few days to a week. 

However, deeper or more extensive wounds can take several weeks to heal fully. As a general guideline, one should avoid swimming until the skin has completely healed and there are no open areas. 

This is to ensure that the risk of infection or further irritation is minimized. If there’s any uncertainty about the healing status of the wound, just don’t go swimming.

How do you treat road rash?

The treatment of road rash is essential for preventing infection and promoting optimal healing. Here are the steps:

  1. Clean the wound: Gently wash the affected area with mild soap and cool to lukewarm water to remove debris and contaminants.
  2. Disinfect: After cleaning, you can apply a mild antiseptic to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply antibiotic ointment: This helps to keep the wound moist, reduce the risk of infection, and promote healing.
  4. Dress the wound: Cover the road rash with a non-stick dressing or bandage. This keeps out contaminants and further protects the wound from irritation.
  5. Change dressings regularly: This ensures the wound remains clean. If the dressing becomes wet or dirty, it should be changed immediately.
  6. Monitor for signs of infection: Redness, swelling, pus, increased pain, and warmth around the area are indicators of potential infection and warrant medical attention.

Can road rash cause infections?

Yes, road rash can lead to infections if not treated and cared for appropriately. The open skin provides an entry point for bacteria and other pathogens. Infections can result from various sources, including the initial trauma, contamination during the healing process, or inadequate wound care. 

Signs of an infection include increased redness, swelling, pus, warmth around the wound, and sometimes fever. If any of these signs are observed, seek medical care immediately.

Is it okay to put sunscreen on road rash?

It is not recommended to apply sunscreen directly to a fresh road rash wound. Sunscreen ingredients, while beneficial for protecting skin from UV rays, can irritate open skin and potentially delay the healing process. 

Once the road rash has fully healed, you can once again apply sunscreen to the area, especially since the new skin can be more sensitive to sun exposure and might be prone to sunburn or discoloration.

How can I speed up the healing process of road rash?

To expedite the healing process of road rash:

  1. Maintain cleanliness: Regularly clean the wound and change dressings to prevent infection.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking sufficient water supports skin health and recovery.
  3. Nutrition: Consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and zinc, can promote skin healing.
  4. Moisturize the wound: Using antibiotic ointments or specialized wound creams can keep the affected area moist, which is conducive to healing.
  5. Avoid irritants: This includes not only chemicals or materials but also actions like scratching.
  6. Protect the wound: Shield it from further injury, direct sunlight, and contaminants.
  7. Limit strenuous activities: Reducing physical activities can ensure that the body’s resources are focused on healing.