It’s usually possible for you to have a bath or a shower twenty-four hours after the operation. Your nurse at the hospital will advise you if this is not the case following your particular operation.
General points to note:
- Showering is preferable to bathing – This is so that your wound doesn’t soak in water. This could soften the scar tissue and cause your wound to reopen. Only have a bath if you can keep your wound out of the water.
- Remove any dressing before bathing or showering – Unless your surgeon or nurse gives you different advice. Some dressings are waterproof and can be left in place.
- You can gently wash the area surrounding your wound with mild, neutral soap. Don’t use any soap, shower gel, body lotion, talcum powder or other bathing products directly over your wound.
- When showering, you can let the water gently splash onto your healing wound. However, do not rub the wound, as this may cause pain and could delay the healing process
- Always dry the wound thoroughly by patting it gently with a clean towel but allow your wound to air dry.
Ask your doctor or nurse about whether it’s OK to shower or bath, and how long you should keep your wound dry. Always follow their advice – they’ll know what’s best in your particular circumstances.
Your surgical wound stands the best chance of healing well if your body is as healthy as possible. There’s a lot you can do to help yourself.
If you smoke, try to give up before you have your surgery. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to your tissues, which slows down wound healing. Ask your GP practice nurse for advice and support.
Your body needs energy and the right nutrients to heal quickly so it’s important that you eat well. Eating a healthy balanced diet should give you all the nutrients your wound needs to heal. And make sure that you drink enough water because if you’re dehydrated, your wound may take longer to heal. Taking supplements is not generally necessary for wound healing if you were in good health before surgery and you recover normally.
It’s useful to lose any excess weight, preferably before you have surgery. Being overweight can increase the time it takes for your wound to heal and increase the risk of wound infection.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to take care that your blood sugar is well controlled. This is because having high blood sugar can slow down the healing process.
Most surgical wounds heal fairly quickly without causing any problems, but it’s possible that your wound may become infected after surgery. You can ask your surgeon how likely it is that you’ll get an infection after your operation, and what to look out for.
If you develop an infection, you’ll usually be treated with a course of antibiotics. Very occasionally, you may need to have further surgery.
Your doctors and nurses will do everything they can to prevent your wound from becoming infected. But it’s important that you know how to spot if you’re developing an infection after you go home. If your wound becomes infected, it may:
- become more painful
- feel tender
- look red, inflamed or swollen
- leak or weep liquid, pus or blood
- smell unpleasant
- you may have a high temperature
A surgical wound infection can develop 2 to 3 days after your surgery, but may occur up to 2 to 3 weeks after your operation. If you have any of these symptoms or if you’re worried about the appearance of your wound, contact the ward or your GP surgery.
1. I have an abscess in my wound – what will happen?
An abscess is a collection of pus. Your body responds to infections by producing pus. If you get an infection in your surgical wound, although it’s uncommon, the pus formed may collect under your skin, forming an abscess. If you have an abscess, it’s likely to feel swollen and painful. You may also feel feverish. If you think you have an abscess, contact the ward or your GP surgery.
If you have a wound abscess, you’ll need treatment. If your abscess isn’t very big or deep, it may be possible to treat it with antibiotics. However, you may need to have it drained of pus and cleaned to remove damaged or infected tissue. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to take after your abscess has been drained, but this is usually only if the infection has spread.
If there was an infection already before your surgery, such as with acute diverticulitis or appendicitis, you may get a deeper abscess. If you have a deeper abscess, your surgeon may recommend further surgery to drain and clean it. Alternatively, you may have a CT or ultrasound scan so that a drain can be inserted through a thin tube using images to guide it.
2. I’ve heard I may develop cellulitis – what’s this?
Cellulitis is a spreading bacterial infection of the deep layers of your skin. Your skin has many bacteria living on it and these don’t usually cause problems. However, if your skin is damaged – such as when you have a surgical wound – these bacteria can enter your body. Your immune system fights these off, but sometimes that’s not enough and the bacteria grow and cause cellulitis.
If your wound becomes infected you may notice that it becomes red, inflamed or swollen. If you have cellulitis, you may notice the area of affected skin getting larger. You may also feel unwell, with a high temperature and chills or shivers.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP. If you have cellulitis, it’s important to start antibiotics early to stop the infection spreading. If your infection is severe, you may need to go into hospital for treatment.
The antibiotic used for cellulitis is usually a type of penicillin, so it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re allergic to penicillin.
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