How Soon Can You Swim After Getting A Tattoo?
Oct. 08, 2019
There are a few reasons swimming after getting a tattoo is risky, both for your health and the quality of your tat. “A new tattoo is basically an open wound,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine. “And that can predispose it to infection.”
Open water, like oceans, lakes, and rivers, no matter how pristine, contain various kinds of bacteria, and when you swim with a fresh tattoo, that bacteria can enter your body more easily, causing an infection. If the infection spreads to your bloodstream, it can be extremely dangerous—even life threatening. In 2017, a man died from an infection caused by vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium related to shellfish, after he went swimming in the ocean with a new tattoo.
Swimming pools and hot tubs can cause just as many issues. If the pool isn’t chlorinated, or it just has low levels of chlorine, there is likely still plenty of bacteria in the water. And highly chlorinated pools, while less likely to give you an infection, can still cause major irritation to your tat, says Dr. Noelle S. Sherber, M.D., a dermatologist, co-founder of SHERBER+RAD, and clinical assistant professor at George Washington University. “You should avoid chlorine—the chemical can cause peeling or red itchy bumps on your tattoo,” says Sherber, which can make it more susceptible to infection and cause issues with healing, altering the appearance.The general recommendation is to wait at least four weeks (or until your tattoo is fully healed) before submerging it in water. If you have a compromised immune system, due to medications or illnesses, you may need to wait longer, since your risk of infection is even greater, says Sherber.