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Is There Really a Risk to Swimming After Eating?

Who doesn’t enjoy cooling off by splashing and swimming in a pool on a hot summer’s day? However, generations of kids had to wait after eating before swimming. It’s advice that many accept as common knowledge. But is it true? Is swimming after eating really that dangerous?

Today, we’re diving into this popular belief to discover the truth. Grab the sunscreen, and let’s get started!

Mayo Clinic Minute: Should you wait 30 minutes to swim after eating?

What Is the Swimming After Eating Myth?

The “Swimming After Eating Myth” is the belief that you should avoid swimming immediately after eating. The myth claims that those jumping into the pool too quickly after eating risk digestive issues like cramps, stomach pains, and possibly drowning.

Support for the myth comes from the idea that our stomachs require additional blood flow to help with digestion, which is accurate. This presumably leaves less blood flowing to the muscles you use during swimming and other physical activities and increases the potential for cramps and other issues.

However, are these presumed risks of going for a dip after eating true? Let’s keep digging and see.

Kid eating chips by pool
There has been a myth for decades about the dangers of swimming after eating.

Where Did the Swimming After Eating Myth Start?

Like many popular myths, the origins of the swimming after-eating myth are hard to find. However, the 1908 Boy Scouts of America handbook included it as a rule. The rule stated that scouts must wait at least 90 minutes after eating to swim. If not, they could drown, and the manual reminds scouts, “It will be your own fault.”

It’s hard to tell where the Boy Scouts of America got the rule. However, it likely reflects a commonly-held belief in the early 1900s. With the popularity of the Boy Scouts of America and their positive reputation at the time, the idea spread from one generation to the next.

Pro Tip: Let your little ones splash in the sun at one of these Top 10 Campgrounds With Water Parks in the US.

Is There Really a Risk to Swimming After Eating?

If you’ve been waiting 15, 30, or 60 minutes after eating to go swimming, we have some bad news for you. Unfortunately, you’ve been wasting valuable time that you could have spent swimming. While the myth has some truth, many medical experts classify this idea as nothing more than an old wives’ tale.

Elie Ward, a spokeswoman for the New York State American Academy of Pediatrics, told the New York Daily News, “You can wait a few minutes to make sure the last thing you ate went down your gullet, but waiting an hour doesn’t do anything.”

If you’re still concerned, it might help to know that the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Committee did a scientific review on the topic. After thoroughly researching the subject, the committee concluded that “available information suggests that eating before swimming is not a contributing risk for drowning and can be dismissed as a myth.”

However, taking it easy after eating isn’t a bad idea, especially if you stuffed yourself. Doing any physical activity after eating can leave you feeling pretty uneasy. So enjoy yourself, but take it easy for a bit.

Floating food basket in pool
Overall, it is not necessary to wait to swim after eating.

Tips for Staying Safe Around Water

Whether swimming in a pool, taking a dip in the ocean, or kayaking down a river, safety should be your top priority around water. Every year, thousands of people worldwide drown or suffer from water-related injuries. Since we don’t want you to be one of them, here are some tips for staying safe around water.

Learn to Swim

Knowing how to swim is an essential skill that everyone should learn. You never know when it will come in handy. Fortunately, plenty of resources are available to help individuals who want to learn to swim.

If you or a loved one do not know how to swim, check with a local aquatic center about swimming classes. Additionally, online tutorials and instructional videos can be beneficial.

Whether you prefer to learn from a professional or teach yourself doesn’t matter. It’s more crucial that you become a confident and competent swimmer. The question of swimming after eating is also less important than learning how to swim safely. You never know when it could save your life.

Use Appropriate Life Jackets and Floatation Devices

Life jackets and other floatation devices can keep you afloat and protect you against drowning and other water-related injuries. You can find various jackets and flotation devices available for all ages and sizes. You can find life jackets for children, pets, and various aquatic activities.

When selecting a life jacket or flotation device, size it appropriately. They typically come with a weight or size limit. The device will be useless if it’s too big or too small for the person using it. You can significantly reduce your risk of drowning or experiencing a water-related injury by having and using the right equipment.

Never Swim Alone

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, you should always use the buddy system when swimming. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a pool, lake, or ocean, always have a partner. A buddy can serve as an extra set of eyes and watch for potential issues. Additionally, if you were to injure yourself or experience an emergency, someone would be there to help you.

When selecting a buddy, you want to ensure they’re a competent swimmer. They won’t do you any good if you experience an emergency, and they are not a strong swimmer. Accidents can happen quickly, and always having a buddy can help you stay safe.

Friends eating in swimming pool
Swimming safety comes down to not swimming alone and being a strong swimmer independently.

Be Aware of the Weather Conditions

We’ve likely all experienced how quickly weather conditions can change. Wind, lightning, and waves are the most dangerous weather conditions for swimming and other aquatic activities. Stay aware of the weather if you plan to be on or in the water.

You may not need to wait to go swimming after eating, but you should check the weather forecast and watch for storms, winds, or other dangerous conditions. Additionally, while enjoying the water, you should stay aware of any changes in the weather. If you notice dark clouds gathering in the distance, it may be time to get out of the water.

Seek shelter as quickly as possible if the weather conditions become dangerous. Lightning can be incredibly hazardous, so always take it seriously. Additionally, watch for rip currents and always respect watercraft advisories. You don’t want to be on or in the water if there are storms, high winds, or other risky situations.

Never Leave Children Unattended

Unfortunately, approximately 900 children die yearly from unintentional drowning. It would be best if you never left children unattended near water. You must avoid distractions, whether at a local pool, the beach, or another body of water.

Drownings can occur very quickly and quietly. It’s essential to maintain proper supervision when children are near water. Don’t think that you can relax because there are lifeguards in the area. Lifeguards are typically severely outnumbered and monitor a vast place with many people. By the time they recognize that there’s a situation, it could be too late.

Stay Fed and Hydrated

Now that we’ve busted the myth of swimming after eating, we’re here to say staying fed and hydrate for your day on the water is a good idea. Electrolytes and energy from food will keep you going, and staying hydrated will prevent any side effects of dehydration, like lightheadedness and headaches. However, there are some foods and drinks that are better for you than others.

Don’t Drink Alcohol and Swim

Like drinking alcohol and driving don’t mix, neither does drinking and swimming. While swimming after eating myths exist, consuming alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination. Trying to swim while impaired can be very challenging and dangerous.

While drinking by a pool or other body of water can be fun, it’s not always wise. Slippery surfaces and unstable conditions can lead to severe injuries and death. Keep yourself and others safe by drinking responsibly and staying alert around water.

Pro Tip: Love to spend time in the water? Find out How to Start Kayak Camping.

Woman eating watermelon by pool
Try to avoid eating heavy, greasy foods while swimming to help with digestion.

Foods You Might Want to Avoid When Swimming

While we’ve debunked the myth that swimming after eating could cause you to drown, there are some foods you’ll likely want to avoid when swimming. High-fat foods like cheeseburgers, pizza, and fried foods typically take longer to digest. Consuming these foods while swimming can lead to severe discomfort as your digestive system does its job.

You may also want to avoid excessively spicy foods as they can cause similar digestive issues. This is especially true if you’re not used to eating them. Foods with hot peppers or spicy sauces may leave you feeling terrible and make it hard to enjoy an aquatic activity.

Finally, be cautious of perishable foods set out for hours in warm weather. Cheese, meats, and other temperature-sensitive items can quickly spoil or grow bacteria that may leave you unwell.

Overall, it’s typically best to eat light when swimming. Crackers, fruit, and veggies make excellent snacks, and you can always bring a cooler to keep perishables cold. Stick to easily digestible foods and avoid overeating. While you may not have to wait a certain amount of minutes, it’s usually best to take your time eating before getting back in the water to avoid discomfort.


Swimming After Eating Isn’t as Dangerous as We’ve Been Told

While the dangers associated with swimming after eating are primarily a myth, it’s still important to be mindful of your body when swimming. You should always use common sense and be self-aware when engaging in aquatic activities. The risks are far too high to relax regarding water safety. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and have permanent consequences.

What other myths about swimming or eating have you heard? Tell us in the comments!

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Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

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Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Monday 15th of May 2023

Your article sheds new light on this issue. I swim laps for exercise and generally finish eating about 2 hours before swimming which was initially my mother's advice as a child. However, this habit does mitigate food reflux while swimming. I look forward to reading your articles everyday. Keep up the great work!