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Patient Education - Shower Instructions for People with Wounds

Patient Education - Shower Instructions for People with Wounds

Patient Education - Shower Instructions for People with Wounds

Summary

Our bodies come into contact with millions of germs every day.  These bacteria and viruses can linger on our bodies and make us sick and infect wounds. Practicing good personal hygiene every day reduces these lingering germs on our bodies which helps reduce their contact with the wound.

You can shower with an open wound, but you must cover and protect the wound from outside sources of bacteria it is exposed to in the shower. This topic provides instructions on how to shower if you have an open wound. 

HOW does good hygiene help my wound?

Hygiene refers to keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean to prevent illness and disease.

Personal hygiene is the caring for our bodies to keep it infection-free.  It includes washing our hands and hair, bathing or showering, cleaning our clothes, and caring for a wound.

Our bodies come into contact with millions of germs every day.  These bacteria and viruses can linger on our bodies and make us sick and infect wounds.

Practicing good personal hygiene every day reduces these lingering germs on our bodies which helps reduce their contact with the wound.

CAN I shower with an open wound?

You can shower with an open wound, but you must cover and protect the wound from outside sources of bacteria it is exposed to in the shower. 

Bacteria from other parts of your body, items used in the shower (used loofahs or washcloths), and the shower itself may seep into your wound and cause an infection.

Since we stand in the shower, uncovered leg and foot wounds are especially at risk for deep tissue infections due to the harmful bacteria that reside on the bathroom and shower floor.

WHEN should I shower with an open wound?

It is recommended you shower on the day your wound dressing needs to be changed. The ideal temperature for wound healing is just above normal body temperature.  When you change your dressing, the wound cools off and it can take up to 6 hours to re-warm. Keeping your wound covered and changing it only when recommended is preferred.

HOW should I shower with an open wound?

Your healthcare provider’s recommendations for showering with a wound may include:
  1. Showering on the dressing change day only
  2. Covering the wound dressing with a barrier (plastic bag and tape, cast protector, etc.) 
  3. After showering, removing the barrier (it may be wet, which is ok) and the wound dressing (throw in the trash after removal)
  4. Cleaning the wound as instructed (if advised to use soap and water, use a clean washcloth, mild temperature tap water and a soap product like Dial. When complete, rinse off the soap with tap water)
  5. Patting dry with a second clean washcloth
  6. Re-dressing the wound immediately (do not walk to another room with an unprotected foot ulcer)

Fig. 1. Covering the wound dressing with a plastic bag and tape

CAN I swim or take a bath?

Swimming or bathing with an open wound is NOT recommended.  Swimming or bathing results in prolonged exposure to the harmful bacteria that reside in swimming pools and bathtubs.  This bacteria could seep into the wound and cause an infection.

SHOULD I soak my wound?

The soaking of a wound outside of a controlled medical whirlpool-type setting is risky for deep tissue exposure to harmful bacteria and is NOT recommended.

DO I need to be “sterile” when I change my wound dressing?

The term “sterile” refers to the presence of no living microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses).  You and your home do not need to be sterile. “Clean” conditions are recommended for you and your home.

Practice “clean” conditions as follows:
  • Launder linens and clothing that come in contact with the wound
  • Do not re-use soiled washcloths for cleaning the wound
  • Use clean tap water (avoid well water or untreated water)
  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after every dressing change
  • Dispose of soiled wound dressings immediately
  • Clean all surfaces that are in contact with wound dressing materials

Wound Do’s and Don'ts 

Do

  • Wash your hands: With soap and water before and after changing your dressing.
  • Keep it covered: Keep your wound covered with a clean dressing.
  • Be careful: Protect your wound from injury by avoiding irritating objects or clothing.
  • Eat right: Eat a well-balanced diet to help your body heal.
  • Monitor for infection: Bacteria can infect wounds. Seek care for fevers, increased wound pain, redness or warmth, swelling, unusual drainage or odor.

Don’t

  • Smoke: Smoking slows wound healing and reduces blood circulation.
  • Dry out your wound: Do not leave your wound open to air to dry out. Wounds heal faster when kept moist.
  • Expose wounds to extreme temperatures: Very hot or cold temperatures could injure the skin.
  • Remove scabs or dry skin: Picking at scabs or dry skin may damage new skin growth.

For more information

For more information about how to shower with an open wound, contact your healthcare team. You also might be interested in: 

  • When is my wound going to heal?
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NOTE: This is a controlled document. This document is not a substitute for proper training, experience, and exercising of professional judgment. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, neither the authors nor the Wound Reference, Inc. give any guarantee as to the accuracy of the information contained in them nor accept any liability, with respect to loss, damage, injury or expense arising from any such errors or omissions in the contents of the work.
Topic 1434 Version 1.0