Going on holiday after breast surgery: 5 things you should be mindful of

Note: you should always follow Government regulation as well as the NHS guidelines regarding COVID-19 before planning your trip and when travelling. 

Most of us have a list of things that we want to do when lockdown ends. For a lot of people, this includes a summer break. But those that have recently had breast surgery will have questions about how it will affect their holiday. 

Your body needs to heal after surgery. This includes breast augmentations (‘boob jobs’ using breast implants), breast lifts, breast reductions and mastectomies (where the breast is removed). 

Not only could going on holiday too soon be inappropriate, but it will probably defeat the object of your trip — relaxing and having fun. You might not be planning an adventure-packed time, but it’s best to wait for at least 8 weeks after surgery so you can fully participate in everything your trip has to offer. 

How soon can I fly after breast surgery?

A popular question to aesthetic plastic surgeons is ‘how soon can you fly after breast surgery?’ Although advice varies on the optimum time for flying after breast surgery, most surgeons advise that it should be avoided for at least one week. 

It’s best to stay close to your plastic surgeon during this critical time frame, as it’s when most serious postoperative complications tend to occur. Also, throughout this period, you may need the nurses and surgeons on hand for any concerns that may arise. 

The most dangerous threat from flying after plastic surgery is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which occurs when potentially fatal blood clots form, most likely due to immobility. It’s therefore generally advised that you wait a minimum of two weeks for short-haul flights and four weeks for long-haul trips.  

How soon can I drive after breast surgery?

Driving after surgery can carry risks—both to the driver themselves and other road users. This is no different for common cosmetic surgery procedures, such as the tummy tuck or breast augmentation surgery. 

It is a legal requirement that the patient be pain-free before they get behind the wheel. Distracting pain and any prescribed medications may affect the driver’s ability to react safely. 

Mr T K Sankar, Consultant Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon says:

 “After breast implant surgery, you should be relatively pain free within 2 weeks. I recommend having someone with you when you drive to start off with. You may want to do short trips in the beginning, and if you are in pain you should not drive”

It’s important that you can drive safely without aggravating your surgical wounds and should be able to quickly and easily perform an emergency stop. Even if you’re feeling well, it’s essential to ask both your surgeon ‘how soon can I drive after breast surgery?’. 

What to wear after breast surgery

Post-operative aftercare is very important. As well as avoiding running, stretching and lifting heavy items, it’s essential to wear a specially designed post-surgical compression bra for at least six weeks after breast augmentation surgery. 

Good support is still important for long-term results, as it avoids irritating your scars. You may therefore want to opt for a comfortable, supportive sports bra until three months after your operation.  

This should also influence your choice of bikini styles, once you are cleared from wearing the post-surgical compression bra. 

How long after breast surgery can I swim?

Another common question we get asked is ‘how long after breast surgery can you swim?’ According to the NHS, you should wait until surgical wounds have healed and no longer cause pain. 

Mr Sankar also recommends waiting at least 2 weeks after the surgery before going for a swim or until the wound is completely dry. Swimming should be for a short duration. Water may create additional moisture and increase risk of infection, so the wound has to be fully healed and dry before going into the water. Swimming can also cause strain on the breast area, which is why you should never get into the swimming pool/ open water if the wound is open.

Sunbathing after breast surgery

UV exposure from spending time in the sun (or through the use of tanning beds) is not recommended after breast surgery. This is because stretched tissue from augmentation is more sensitive to sun exposure and therefore likely to burn. According to Mr Sankar, there is also less sensation in the skin after surgery, so you may not feel the skin burning during sun exposure.

Scars may become inflamed and appear darker and more prominent (hyperpigmentation). Sunbathing after breast surgery also destroys collagen, causing skin to weaken and become saggy. 

It may be safest to use fake tanning products, waiting up to three weeks to apply and taking care to cover any scar tissue to avoid infection. If you must sunbathe or use tanning beds, it is advisable to wait at least six to eight weeks after surgery and speak with your consultant first. Just be aware these can increase the incidence of skin cancer at a later date in life. 

Extra care must be taken to protect the breast tissue by applying a high protection UVA/UVB sunblock or cream (at least factor 30) and covering up with clothing for 12 months after surgery. Plasters may also be applied to protect the scar area.  

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Key takeaways

  • Wear your post-surgical compression bra for at least six weeks
  • Consult your surgeon about when you can drive
  • Avoid flying for at least two weeks (short haul) and four weeks (long haul)
  • Cover the breast area with sun cream, plasters, and clothing for 12 months
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Avoid swimming/hot tubs for at least six to eight weeks
Posted April 12, 2021
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