Summer is just around the corner, and with the scorching early afternoons that simmer into cooler, drizzly thunderstorms, come memories of being an eager little fish-ready to make one last splash after lunch before the dark clouds rolled in. But as vivid as my memory of childhood cannonballs is my grandmother shouting from the patio “No swimming!! You just ate!!”
Perhaps Yiayia really did believe this old wives tale you probably have kept from your childhood summers as well, but more than likely she was just tired of watching all the grandchildren in the pool. She was justified in being tired, since eating activates the ‘rest and digest’ action of our parasympathetic nervous system, giving our bodies the opportunity to digest by directing some blood flow to the digestive tract during and after eating. However, us kids were mind over matter. The ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system surged as we dove in and our muscles thus received blood flow and energy during swimming. Worst case scenario, we had some uncomfortable cramping or indigestion after jumping in too quickly after a meal.
So let the summer commence! The truth is there are no reported cases of drowning, or near drownings due to eating and the American Red Cross and American Academy of Pediatrics do not indicate that you should wait a certain amount of time after eating to swim (Vreeman & Carroll, 2009, p.138). While supervision of children is always necessary to prevent drownings, babysitters may not like it, but this mythbuster frees the burgers from blame!
Until next time,
Chudler, E.H. (2014). Neuroscience for Kids. Retrieved from http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/auto.html
Vreeman, R. C., & Carroll, A.E.(2009). Don’t swallow your gum!: Myths, half-truths, and outright lies about your body and health. New York, NY: Macmillan.