Myth Buster: Swimming in Saltwater is Good For Wounds

If you have lived on the coast for long, you have probably heard about the healing properties of swimming at the beach. After all, there has been plenty of historical evidence of people using saltwater to clean and treat wounds. So it’s pretty lucky for us that we live within minutes of a huge source of this miracle healing solution, right?

Not so fast.

“While it is true that medical professionals sometimes use a saline solution to clean wounds,” said White-Wilson Family Medicine Physician Dr. Christopher Cave, “this solution is very different from the saltwater you would find in the Gulf of Mexico.”

As Dr. Cave explains, the saline solution you find in your doctor’s office or at the drugstore has been sterilized and contains only salt and water meaning you aren’t introducing any other bacteria or harmful material to the wound that may result in infection.

“That is definitely not the case when it comes to large open bodies of water such as an ocean or the Gulf. In fact, it is well documented that seawater, especially warmer water, is a popular host of bacteria and viruses,” said Dr. Cave. “In most cases, these are harmless. However, there is an exception when you have an open wound.”

Dr. Cave explains that swimming in the ocean with an open wound can be dangerous. “You no longer have the protection of your skin to keep out harmful materials and bacteria and thus, you have a greater chance of developing an infection.”

Though it makes cooling off in this August heat more of a challenge, Dr. Cave recommends skipping the beach if you have an open wound. “It will benefit you more in the long run if you wait until a wound is healed to swim,” he said. “If you do swim with an open wound and later experience any signs of an infection, including pain or itching, visit a doctor as soon as possible.”

This myth is BUSTED!

Dr. Christopher Cave is a Family Medicine physician at White-Wilson Medical Center in Navarre, Florida. He is now accepting new patients. Learn more about Dr. Cave and his approach to care here.

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