Happy swimming season!

It's finally the time of the year when we splash in the pool and enjoy poolside (or lakeside) sandwiches for lunch (deli ham with potato chips is elite in that situation, period).


You've probably been told what I have: you shouldn't swim for 20-30 minutes after you eat. If you do, you'll get sick.

Because I love swimming and had a sassy streak, I broke that rule several times and didn't get queasy or cramped once. It seems like a parental lie that's right up there with telling us we'll get pulled over by the police if we drive with our car's interior lights on.

What Science Actually Says

That rule is a myth dating back to 1911. In America, it was first mentioned in the Boy Scouts of America handbook. The whole idea stems from the idea that blood had shifted from your muscles to your stomach to aid in digestion.

But GoodRx has some actual science that's good to know about it as you hangout by the pool.

If you actually exercise by swimming or your kid plays vigorously in the pool, it's good to wait a bit after you eat. Eating too soon before any intense exercise can cause gastrointestinal upset, which isn't dangerous or anything, but as an adult it would put me out of commission for the day for sure.

Science does say that drinking alcohol before swimming can increase the risk of drowning. Many of us have floated in a pool or lake with a beer or cocktail. And we probably will again. But don't get blitzed if you're wanting to get in the water. If you do get pretty tipsy, stay out of it.

Waiting To Swim After Eating: A Timeline

In general, for exercises including swimming, here's how long experts say you should wait to let your food settle:

  • large meal: wait 3-4 hours to exercise
  • small meal: wait 1-2 hours to exercise
  • light snack: wait 30-60 minutes

So if your kid is super energetic and swims and plays a lot in the pool, it probably isn't a bad idea to let them sit for a bit after lunch before hopping back in. However, it likely won't be a huge issue if they don't.

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