Should You Swim in a Pool with an Open Abrasion?

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iImage by, courtesy of Paul Sapiano

The Facts

Pools are a common source of recreation, whether at the local municipal swimming hole, a hotel or a friend's house. However, it is important to heed health and hygiene guidelines while swimming with other people, especially if you are injured. Chlorine and pool filters don't always keep you safe from harmful materials floating around in the water, especially given the body traffic some pools get. Swimming with an open abrasion can be risky, but by being cautious, you can prevent the spread of infections and illnesses.

When you swim in a public pool, you are at the mercy of multitudes of tiny microbes looking for a home. Although measures are taken to keep pools clean, according to, it can take upward of an hour for chlorine to kill the bacteria that can cause infections and illnesses. If your immune system is already compromised by a wound or abrasion, you can expose yourself to further unnecessary risks by swimming before it heals.


There are several health problems you can contract from swimming in public pools, but the most prevalent are RWI's, or recreational water illnesses. The most common illness exhibited is diarrhea, however, you can also contract something more dangerous such as eye and ear infections, gastrointestinal illness or E. Coli. It is important to consider that even when someone is well groomed and clean, he will likely still have traces of feces on his body. The same is true for saliva, mucus and other bodily fluids. By swimming with an open abrasion, you are gambling that the chlorine will protect you from infection by these invading contaminates.

Time Frame

It is important that you assess the severity of your abrasion or wound. Take into consideration how long you've had it and how long it might take to heal. Depending on whether your skin is beginning to scab or not, or if you are protecting it with a bandage, you may significantly reduce the risk of infecting your abrasion. For a moderate abrasion, you may want to wait seven to ten days before choosing to swim; giving the injury time to heal, if only slightly, before exposing it to contagions.


Although swimming in a pool can be risky, especially with an injury, it can be done safely. By taking precautions like bathing before and after swimming, wearing a bandage, and avoiding drinking or inhaling the water, you can drastically reduce your risk of contracting an illness, even with the compromise of an injury. Keeping your wound clean by disinfecting it thoroughly and often can also be a large help in killing harmful germs and bacteria.


Pools can be breeding grounds for bacteria, but that doesn't mean you can't go swimming, even if you have an open abrasion. Plenty of people go swimming in public pools every day, and don't experience any harmful effects. By being aware of the risks and by taking preventative measure, you can ensure that you are doing all in your power to stay safe and healthy if you choose to swim.