Swimmers do NOT need to wait half-an-hour after eating to hit the water: Doctor insists there is no evidence the old wives’ tale increases the risk of drowning

  • People assume blood is diverted to the gut away from their arms and legs
  • They think this causes fatigue, which increases their risk of drowning
  • At worst, people may suffer muscle cramps but nothing more serious
  • Cramp is more likely to occur due to overexertion rather than being food related
  • Some professional athletes even eat while swimming long distances 
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People do not need to wait half-an-hour to swim after eating, doctor claims.

According to Dr Michael Boniface, from The Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, there is no evidence that allowing 30-to-60 minutes to digest food reduces people’s risk of drowning.

Speaking on the Mayo Minute podcast, he said: ‘The old feeling was that, after you eat, some of the blood may be diverted to your gut so that you can digest, diverting the bloodstream away from your arms and legs and you may get tired or fatigued, and be more likely to drown.

‘We know now that really there is no scientific basis for that recommendation. 

‘You may end up with some stomach cramping or a muscle cramp, but this is not a dangerous activity to routinely enjoy.’

People do not need to wait half an hour after eating to swim, doctor claims (stock)

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Swimming in cold water could be an alternative to strong painkillers, doctors believe.

A short, sharp plunge into the open sea cured a British man of the debilitating pain he had been suffering for two and a half months.

Experts at Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia have now called for research into cold-water therapy as a treatment for serious pain, in light of his case.

Doctors believe the shock of sudden immersion may have disrupted his nervous system, jolting him out of a cycle of pain. 

Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, Dr Tom Mole from UEA, and Pieter Mackeith from Cambridge, report the ‘unexpected, immediate, complete and sustained remission’ of the persistent pain suffered by a 28-year-old patient following an operation.

The man, who is not named, had been suffering from debilitating pain for 10 weeks when he decided to jump from a rocky outcrop into the sea ‘as distraction’.

He said: ‘I initially thought – “damn this is so cold I’m going to die!” 

‘I just swam for my life – Once I was in the water, I had tunnel vision – for the first time in months, I completely forgot about the pain or the fear of shooting pains in my chest if I moved.

‘My entire body tingled with the cold.

‘I just knew if I didn’t keep swimming, I’d soon freeze.

‘After a few moments I actually enjoyed it – it was just an immersive rush of adrenaline. I bet I couldn’t have felt my pain, even if I tried’.

He added: ‘When I came out of the water, I realised the neuropathic pain had gone away. I couldn’t believe it.’ 

Where did the old wives’ tale come from? 

There is no evidence to suggest exercising after eating gives people cramp, however, it may make them feel nauseous. 

Cramp is more likely to occur due to overexertion rather than being food related, with some professional athletes even eating while swimming long distances.

Previous studies indicating a link between cramp and indigestion during swimming are typically carried out on athletes, rather than children splashing around on holiday.

Children with a stitch in a swimming pool are usually only at risk if they are in deep water and unable to stand. It is possible to float on your back with a stitch.

British seas raise people’s risk of illness by more than 70%

This comes after research released last February suggested swimming in British seas raises people’s risk of illness by more than 70 per cent.

Bathing or taking part in water sports raises swimmers’ risk of developing earache by 77 per cent, according to the first study of its kind.

Spending time in local coastal waters also increases people’s likelihood of developing gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, by 29 per cent, the research adds.

Previous research found British seawater can contain bacteria such as E.coli, which can lead to life-threatening diarrhoea, and enterococcus, which is associated with wound infections.

Study author Dr Anne Leonard, from the University of Exeter, said: ‘In high-income countries like the UK, there is a perception that there is little risk to health of spending time in the sea.

‘However, our paper shows that spending time in the sea does increase the probability of developing illnesses, such as ear ailments and problems involving the digestive system, such as stomach ache and diarrhoea.’

Although most people will recover from such illnesses, the researchers warn they can be serious in the elderly or very young.

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