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Did you know: is it dangerous swim after eating

“Don't go in the water after eating, Jonathan!”

 

 

If you have never heard this popular phrase before, please water me!

 

Jonathan knows for a fact that he must not swim after eating and that he should wait at least an hour! Jonathan knows this because his mother is constantly repeating it…

 

But Jonathan still wonders why his mother never lets him have a little splash about after mealtimes. From what he has understood, he would be at risk of drowning because of something to do with digestion... Hmm, not very clear at all!

 

Let us help Jonathan understand why his mother is so wary, and if, indeed, the existence of this fear is founded.

 

This popular belief of post-meal discomfort has not just come from Jonathan's mum. It has long been part of the collective psyche. But why is it such a concern?

 

If you are hungry for knowledge then keep reading...

 

 

DIGESTION AND SWIMMING

 

Many swimmers are still convinced that taking a dip after a meal would be extremely dangerous. It would seem that it is necessary to wait until digestion has finished, or risk a cold shock response.

 

Two main reasons are put forward:

  • The first reason for this concern is that, during digestion, body temperature increases, which could increase the risk of cold shock response when entering cool water.
  • Secondly, during digestion, the flow of oxygenated blood would be directed towards the stomach and therefore not at all to the muscles.

 

Sounds plausible! However, today, numerous studies have been carried out, notably by Canadian and American Red Cross experts:

  • During digestion, body temperature rises but the difference is minuscule. If entering the water at a moderate pace, by first wetting your neck and chest, you will not be taking any risks.
  • Also, during digestion, the volume of oxygenated blood, even if more concentrated than usual on the abdomen, is more than enough to support the muscular activity of your limbs.
  • No correlation between cramp, cold shock response, drowning and digestion could be established.

 

So don't worry about it! You have enough energy to digest and swim at the same time! It is also often recommended for high-level swimmers as well as babies to eat a little before getting in the water.

 

If you swim after eating you are not at risk of cold shock response, but if you swim after fasting you may risk hypoglycaemia!

 

 

COLD SHOCK RESPONSE

 

Cold shock response is a type of "thermal shock”. It is caused by a sudden cooling of the body, when the latter comes into contact with water cooler than its own temperature. Cold shock response can lead to unconsciousness.

 

Cold shock response occurs mainly (but not only) in the summer, when swimmers rush to the water, whether it be the sea, lake, river or pool, without taking the time to accustom their bodies to the sudden difference in temperature.

 

Before entering the water, take a moment to "taste" it and wet your neck, chest, and face.

 

In short, if you have been sunbathing or have just finished intense exercise, do not dive or bomb into the water!

 

 

SO IS THERE A RISK OR NOT?

 

As mentioned above, the fear of post-meal discomfort when swimming is absolutely not justified.

 

However, the risk that you expose yourself to by eating a shameful number of hot dogs or a whole pizza before taking a dip will be that of an unpleasant swimming experience, due to having a belly full of food.

 

Aside from that, during the summer, meals are often eaten al fresco, and the sun beats down heavily in the early afternoon. So take your chance to get in the water without delay!

 

Also remember that a meal in itself does not pose any real danger if and only if it is not a boozy one. Alcohol can make you feel unwell and significantly reduces our reflexes and our ability to react.

 

So be vigilant about the absorption of non-chlorinated liquids!

 

 

WHERE DOES THIS BELIEF COME FROM?

 

Although you can never repeat enough that water is an element in which every child must be watched, that is no reason to tell them tall tales and make the water a scary place!

 

It is probably for this reason that this type of legend appeared in 1908 for the first time in the “Scouting for Boys” handbook:

 

 

“First, there is the danger of cramp. If you bathe within an hour and a half after taking a meal, that is, before your food is digested, you are very likely to get cramp. Cramp doubles you up in extreme pain so that you cannot move your arms or legs — and down you go. You may drown — and it will be your own fault.”

 

 

Even for a serious hypochondriac, it's still a bit extreme, right?

 

So instead of traumatising Jonathan and further generations of little ones, wouldn't it be better to start by teaching them how to swim?

Régis
National Swimmer & Dialogue Leader
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