“With the old is wisdom,” the Bible tells us but, in fact, some of the everyday lore handed down by oldies is plain wrong.
Example (a favourite injunction of my grandmother): Don't go swimming for at least an hour after eating a meal. In fact, multiple studies have found this warning to be unfounded.
One extensive project at the University of Georgia reported that less than 1% of cases of drowning had happened after a meal. But remember we're talking about eating, not drinking.
It's a bad idea to go into the water after even a couple of glasses of that rosé. They could be your last. But there's another real danger that swimmers can encounter: that's “thermal shock”. This is what can happen when you go from lying in hot sunshine into much cooler sea- water.
Explains Dr Jean-Jacques Raymond, head of the SAMU in the Var: “Such a sudden entry into cooler water can lead to a change in body temperature and lead to what we call peripheral vasoconstriction. Blood returns massively to the heart. This can have a very disturbing physical effect, leading even to a black- out and drowning. It can happen to people at any age, in any state of health.”
Dr Raymond is fully at one with the findings of the Georgia research: “Don't swim after eating is just an old wives' tale but I would say digestion has effects on blood flow which could aggravate thermal shock if it occurs.” Dr Raymond's advice then?
“If you find the water is noticeably cool and you've been sunbathing take things steadily. Move into the sea slowly and moisten areas like the face and back of the neck. Like that you should be okay.”
This article is contested as previously discussed at