My parents would not let me to take a showers or take a bath because they claimed it would make you even more sick.

Is there any evidence that taking a bath or shower when sick has negative effects?

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Is there any evidence that taking a bath or shower when sick has negative effects?

This is quite interesting because I've heard MANY patients with this same belief. Some people believe that bathing when sick will make you more sick. Some women do not bathe during their menstrual period because their mothers told them it would lead to some adverse effects. Even some mothers who just gave birth do not take a bath in the immediate post-partum period because they believe it will be harmful.

In all the medical books I've read, I've never encountered one that cautions against bathing when someone is sick. I also searched PubMed just now and I didn't find a study that details the negative effects of bathing during a sickness. On the contrary, there are a lot of studies that encourages people to bathe during illness, especially when they are febrile. In fact, it is a common practice in the medical profession to advise patients to have a sponge bath when their temperature is up. Aside from the cooling effect of bathing, it also cleans the body and prevents the spread of infection.

The only situations I could think of when I would advise patients to not take a bath is when a patient is too weak to stand up and take a bath or is at risk of falling by doing so. But then again, these patients can still have sponge baths in their bed. What they're not allowed is to ambulate, but they're allowed to bathe. Also, if patients have skin lesions or contraptions that shouldn't be wet; but then again, these can easily be covered by waterproof dressings and the patient can still take a bath. The last thing I could think of why I wouldn't allow a patient to bathe is when a patient is hypothermic (or has low body temperature). But then again, they can have warm baths instead. So overall, I really couldn't think of a reason--and I haven't read any--why baths can worsen illnesses.

I got interested to know the source of this belief, and I've come across this article. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/05/why-bathing-was-uncommon-in-medieval-europe/

Before the Middle Ages, public baths were very common, as was the general public regularly taking time to bathe in one way or another. Even during the 4th and 5th centuries, Christian authorities allowed people to bathe for cleanliness and health, but condemned attendance to public bath houses for pleasure and condemned women going to bath houses that had mixed facilities. However, over time, more and more restrictions appeared. Eventually, Christians were prohibited from bathing naked and, overall, the church began to not approve an “excessive” indulgence in the habit of bathing. This culminated in the Medieval church authorities proclaiming that public bathing led to immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases.

This latter “disease” point was very common; it was believed in many parts of Europe that water could carry disease into the body through the pores in the skin. According to one medical treaty of the 16th century, “Water baths warm the body, but weaken the organism and widen pores. That’s why they can be dangerous and cause different diseases, even death.” It wasn’t just diseases from the water itself they were worried about. They also felt that with the pores widened after a bath, this resulted in infections of the air having easier access to the body.

Interesting, right? Anyway, if you find a logical, scientific explanation for the harmful effect of bathing during an illness, please tag me. I'd like to know it too.

  • 2
    +1 very nice answer, agree 100%. just I want add that there is some situations the patient should be aware with details, e.g. water temperature in case of fever. another example, cover ears when having shower after tonsillectomy ... and so on
    – Shannak
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 7:55
  • About taking a bath after giving birth: I have a medical book from the late seventies that recommends to shower and avoid taking a bath for 14 days after giving birth to prevent nipple infections with with bacteria from the lochia. Don't know, whether or not this idea was proven wrong in the last 40 years.
    – Arsak
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 20:14

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