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Swimming After Eating: Just When Is It Safe To Go?

When The Swimming After Eating Rule Becomes about Control

I had a child come up to me whilst I was on Lifeguard duty one day and he asked me: "How long do I have to wait after I eat before I can go back in the pool?" I explained that he could not take food into the pool but as long as he only played gently in the pool he should be okay to go straight back in swimming after eating. But that is not what his dad wanted to hear so his Dad called me over.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Fun And Not So Fun

I turned out that his Dad was hoping to use it as a means of getting his child not to go back in the pool and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was supposed to be on his side and I was not helping. I had to laugh and the father took it in good humour so all ended well. But it did highlight to me that there is still a strong myth around that you cannot go back in the water after eating for 20 to 30 minutes. The problem for this Dad and many other parents is that there is just no evidence to support it.

Image of smiling, happy children in the pool one wearing floaties: this article is about the Swimming After Eating Myth
Swimming After Eating Myth 

Of course, I would not go for a swimming marathon immediately after a full on BBQ and beer; there are special meals for that but if you are just wading in the water or something just as gentle after a meal there is unlikely to be any harm in that.

Just As an Aside

I would have liked to help this Dad out but I was not going to lie. I get a lot of parents winking at me trying to get me to play a game with their children and where possible I will help but trying to get me to give uninformed information is not something that a lifeguard can afford to do if they want to maintain credibility with those they are guarding.

In this case, just like so many other parents and guardians the father was probably a little surprised to discover that what he had believed all his life was, in fact, an unsubstantiated myth but as I said to him no one should ask a lifeguard to give false information even for fun and especially not for manipulative reasons the most important characteristic a lifeguard has is that s/he is believed or when they say something is dangerous all they get is a negative response and potentially deleterious result.


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