My family is a beach family. Nary a weekend of the summer goes by without a trip to one of our favorite spots on the Atlantic coast, and we spend hours and hours there. There are days where we'll eat all three of our meals right there on the sand. So when I'm there, I don't think much about what happens if you don't change out of your bathing suit right away because I'm having too much fun. Admittedly, we don't even change out of our wet suits before coming home, because the beach bathing houses are kind of ew, and the kids are usually half asleep by the time we leave. But turns out, that's probably unwise.
I have suffered some ill effects from my own lackadaisical attitude toward proper bathing suit maintenance. Mainly, it's been related to chafing and rubbing, which is apparently one of the most common problems that occur if you don't take off your wet bathing suit right away, according to Swimming World. This is especially true in sandy salt water, as it not only rubs, but it's abrasive and harsh up against the delicate tissues of the skin, particularly in and around the breasts and groin.
OB-GYN Roya Rezaee, MD from Cleveland, Ohio's University Hospitals told My UH Care that you should definitely not sit around in a wet bathing suit as so many of us are prone to do. She said that you need to rinse off with water and change immediately.” Rezaee went on to say that this only leads to further growth of bacteria around your vagina and vulva that could lead to problems with the delicate balance of flora in the region.
Honestly, I'm surprised my love of the beach hasn't yet given me a raging yeast infection. According to Rezaee, that's exactly what I've been courting with my apathy toward removing my bathing suit post haste after being in the water all day. She said that any imbalance of bacteria can lead to a yeast infection, but when it's coupled with the moist, wet heat of a restrictive bathing suit, it's just begging for the itchy troubles.
Adrianne Browning, MD, clerkship director for obstetrics and gynecology for the Texas A&M College of Medicine told Vital Record that it's not just yeast infections, but a myriad of fungal infections or even bacterial vaginosis that can occur with hanging out in your damp bikini. And as for that chafing? She says that the open skin from those sores are ripe for bacterial infection.
What happens if you don't change out of your bathing suit right away if you're a man or a boy? As much as their external sexual organs helps save them from much of the urinary tract and yeast issues that befall people with internal genitalia, it's not all smooth sailing for them either. Browning said that men who sit around in their wet trunks all day are at risk for the dreaded jock itch. “Jock itch typically occurs around the groin and inner thighs. It can present with dryness, flaking, redness, itchiness, and often have a ring-shaped rash in the area," she said. While it's apparently easily treatable with a variety of anti-fungal medications, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of embarrassing public junk scratching.
As for your babies? Dr. Harry Miller of Four Seasons Pediatrics wrote that sitting around in their wet suit or swim diaper can lead to all kinds of skin irritation and even painful urination. It can get so bad that it needs treatment with a sitz bath or even a visit to the pediatrician.
Basically, hanging out in your wet suit all day is just bad news bears, and while I can't promise I won't ever do it anymore, I am going to look into window shades for my car so I can change somewhere other than the New York City public bath houses. (Which are a health risk unto themselves.)