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Medicine or Malarkey: Wait an Hour After Eating Before Swimming?

Nothing is more refreshing than a day at the pool, lake or beach to beat the summer heat. And just like the theme from Jaws may summon a fear of the water, so does the idea of jumping into the pool right after you eat. We all remember our mothers telling us that we have to wait an hour after eating before swimming, and to ignore this warning meant a very real danger. The idea behind this warning is that the digestion of a heavy meal takes blood away from the muscles you use for swimming, making you more prone to getting a cramp while in the water. This could cause you such severe pain that you will not be able to use your arms and legs and will eventually drown. A dire warning, indeed! But is there any truth to this old wives’ tale?

The reality is that it’s perfectly OK to swim immediately after a light meal or snack (whew!). It might be a good idea to take a break before swimming if the meal is larger and you or your child feels lethargic, but not because of digestion-related danger. Instead, a sleepy person might be less aware of their surroundings and slower in reacting to danger. In the same vein, your chances of drowning increase if you consume alcohol, so use extra caution if your outdoor activities include alcoholic beverages. With all of that being said, you can take other steps to make sure you and your friends and family have a safe time in the water. Here are four ways to prevent water-related issues:

1. Be prepared:

Enroll your family in swimming classes and consider basic first-aid classes as well. You should also keep emergency equipment handy and educate your family on proper safety procedures. Be sure to remove any toys from the water after use to prevent a child from trying to retrieve a toy and slipping in when you’re not nearby.

2. Increase awareness:

Never let children swim unattended. Keep tabs on kids at all times. Learn about the dangers of pool drains, and make note of where drains are in the pool you’re using. In other water areas, pay attention to warnings about currents and undertows. Always obey lifeguards, and teach your children to do the same. They are there specifically to help keep you safe and should be respected.

3. Reduce access:

To prevent accidental falls into the water, install fences around pools and other outdoor water areas. You can also install an alarm system that will alert you if someone enters the area when you aren’t nearby. For further safety, if you own a pool, consider investing in a locking pool cover. This is especially important if young children are around.

4. Prevent illness:

Teach your children to never swallow water in pools, rivers, lakes or the ocean. Help keep pools cleaner by making it a habit to wash off or shower before swimming. Keep any sick family members (especially those with diarrhea) out of the water, and take bathroom breaks often to help keep unwanted germs and other contaminants from getting into the water.

If you do happen to run into any scrapes, bumps, or illness while enjoying the water, you can walk in to your nearby CareSpot for same-day treatment. For life-threatening emergencies, always call 911.

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