Should You Shower After Swimming in a Lake? (YES!)

Whether you’re from Canada, the United States, Australia or somewhere else, I’m sure you grew up swimming in lakes. As a kid, I think my parents bathed me afterwards, but I don’t really remember.

What I DO remember, however, is the nasty ear infections that I used to get (aka “swimmer’s ear”.) This was a very painful infection of the ear canal and caused me many tears growing up.

Now, as an adult, I always take a shower once I’m done. But you may be wondering “Should you shower after swimming in a lake?” After all, it is just a natural body of fresh water. But the answer is YES, it’s the best way to prevent recreational water illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many swimming-related illnesses that you could fall victim to. When we swim in a lake (even freshwater lakes), we come into contact with all sorts of bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms that can attack our immune systems and cause infections and rashes.

Showering with warm water and soap immediately after swimming helps remove these harmful agents from our skin’s surface, reducing the risk of contracting illnesses. This doesn’t just apply to lakes either. Hot tubs, water parks, public pools and even your own backyard swimming pool are all breeding grounds for bacteria (think fecal matter.)

Why Should You Shower After Swimming in a Lake?

It’s important to take some precautions to keep yourself and others safe. Here are 3 main reasons why you should shower after swimming in natural bodies of water (including salt water):

  1. Removes bacteria and germs: Lakes can contain harmful bacteria, animal feces and germs that can cause skin infections and illnesses. Showering after swimming can help remove these from your skin and prevent them from spreading.
  2. Prevents skin irritation: Lake water can contain chemicals, algae, and other substances that can irritate your skin and cause an allergic reaction. Showering can help remove these and prevent rashes and other skin irritations.
  3. Prevents the spread of waterborne illnesses: Some diseases, such as those that come from harmful algal blooms (HAB), can be spread through contaminated water. Showering after swimming can help prevent the spread of these diseases to others.

Overall, taking a quick shower after swimming in a lake is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others from harmful bacteria and germs, prevent skin irritation, and prevent the spread of diseases.

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The Risks of Not Showering After Swimming in a Lake

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are some potential issues that you could run into by not practicing proper hygiene:

1. Skin Irritations

Lakes can contain bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms that can cause skin irritations (especially if you have an open cut.) Swimmer’s itch is a common condition that occurs when a microscopic parasite burrows into the skin, causing itching and redness.

Not showering after swimming in a lake can increase the risk of developing this condition. Additionally, lake water can contain harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, which can irritate the skin. Pool water (aka chlorinated water) also contains harmful pool chemicals which should also be washed off.

2. Stomach and Intestinal Issues

Swimming in a lake can expose you to harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause stomach and intestinal issues. These can include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.

Not showering after a swim can increase the risk of ingesting these harmful pathogens, especially if you accidentally swallow lake water. Even if you’re not done swimming, make sure you wash your hands before eating the amazing picnic lunch that you packed!

3. Respiratory Issues

Lake water can contain harmful chemicals and pollutants, such as algae blooms and industrial waste, that can cause respiratory issues. Not showering after swimming in a lake can increase the risk of inhaling these pollutants, which can lead to coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory problems.

By taking a few minutes to rinse off, you can help protect your skin, stomach, and respiratory system from harmful bacteria and pollutants.

swimming in a lake

Suggestions for Swimming in a Lake

Over the years, I have learned a few tips and tricks to make sure I stay safe and healthy. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Shower before and after swimming to get rid of any sweat or germs on your skin. This can help reduce the risk of exposing someone else to bacteria or viruses. Also, if you already have an open wound or skin infection, avoid swimming altogether.
  • Check the water quality before going for a swim. Some lakes may have high levels of bacteria or algae that can be harmful to humans. You can usually find this information online or by contacting the local health department.
  • Wear appropriate swimwear to avoid skin irritation or rashes. Tight-fitting swimsuits or wetsuits can help protect your skin from contact with plants or algae in the water. A swim cap can help protect your ears.
  • Swim in designated areas whenever possible. These areas are typically monitored for water quality and safety hazards, such as rocks or underwater obstacles.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid swimming alone. It’s always a good idea to have a buddy with you in case of an emergency.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after swimming. This can help prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, especially on hot summer days.
  • Take bathroom breaks as needed and avoid overexerting yourself. Although it seems tempting to wee in the lake, don’t do it!

By following these suggestions, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience the next time you’re at a lake.

7 Tips for Showering After Swimming in a Lake

  1. Start by rinsing off any sand or dirt from your body with clean water.
  2. Use soap or body wash to clean your entire body, including your hair.
  3. Pay special attention to areas that are prone to bacterial growth, such as your armpits, groin, and feet.
  4. Use a loofah or washcloth to scrub your skin gently and remove any dead skin cells.
  5. Rinse off thoroughly with clean water.
  6. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel.
  7. Apply moisturizer to your skin to keep it hydrated.
showering after swimming

Before You Go

Now that you know that you SHOULD shower after swimming in a lake, maybe you need some fun things to take to the beach with you.

Or you know someone that likes to swim (it could be you) and you’d like to buy them something special. We’ve got some great gift ideas in this article!


What Should I Do After Swimming in a Lake?

After swimming in a lake, it is recommended to take a shower to reduce the risk of contracting infections and rashes. Showering with warm water and soap immediately after recreational water activities helps remove bacteria from your skin’s surface and your hair.

It is also a good idea to change out of your wet swimsuit and dry off thoroughly to prevent any moisture from lingering on your skin, which can lead to skin irritation.

Should I Wash My Hair After Swimming in a Lake?

Yes, it is recommended to wash your hair after swimming in a lake. Lake water can contain pollutants and bacteria that can cause scalp irritation and other skin problems.

It is best to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner to remove any contaminants that may be in the water. Be sure to rinse your hair thoroughly to remove any residue.

Is it OK to Shower in a Lake?

No, it is not recommended to shower in a lake. Showering in a lake can introduce soap and other contaminants into the water, which can harm aquatic life and other swimmers. It is best to use a designated shower area or rinse off with a hose near the lake to avoid contaminating the water.

What Happens if You Don’t Shower After Swimming in a Lake?

If you don’t shower after swimming in a lake, you may be at risk of contracting illnesses and skin irritations. Lake water can contain bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens that can cause infections such as diarrhea, ear infections, and skin rashes.

Showering after swimming helps remove any bacteria from your skin’s surface and decreases your risk of getting sick.