ANYtime is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the water, but going swimming in a pool, beach, or even at a water park can pose a threat to you and those you love if you don’t know the facts.
The Beach Company helps debunk some common misconceptions about swimming safety, as well as help you understand the facts, so that you can feel confident around the water as the temperatures heat up.
FICTION: You Have To Wait A Half-Hour After Eating To Swim
Who hasn’t heard this old wives tale? If you go in the pool too close to meal time, you will assuredly get a cramp and might even drown! The problem is, there’s absolutely no science to back this up. While it is possible to suffer a cramp while swimming after a meal, it’s probably more related to the fact you’re moving around and not because you’re in the water. There has never been a documented case of anyone drowning because swimming too soon after eating, and the American Red Cross and the other safety associations make no mention of it in their guidelines.
This fiction probably stems from the fact that after eating a large meal, your stomach pushes on your diaphragm, making you feel like you’re getting less air. This happens on dry land too, but it may seem worse to you while you’re in the water because your brain is focusing your breathing. So, while you’re in the clear to swim after eating (most competitive swimmers eat a meal right before a big race), it may not feel great. It’s not dangerous, however.
FACT: Flat Pool Drains Pose A Drowning Risk
So-called “old school” flat pool drains can create a vacuum effect when they come in contact with a large area of skin, effectively pinning you to the bottom of the pool. These drains connect to the pool’s pump, which is the mechanism that actually creates the suction. There have been several deaths—mainly children—because people have been unable to free themselves from the drain. Even if the water is shallow enough for you to have your head above water, if you sit on one of these drains, the force can be powerful enough to start pulling what’s inside, out of you.
It’s nasty stuff, but it’s a problem that is easily remedied with the installation of a newer, domed drain cover, otherwise known as an anti-entrapment cover. It’s always wise to inspect public pools, especially hot tubs, for any suspicious looking drain covers. If you’re swimming in a place with flat drains, be sure to locate the shut-off switch for the pump. If you kill the power to the pump, it will stop the suction if someone gets trapped.
FICTION: You Don’t Need Sunscreen In The Water
This one is not only patently false, but it’s actually just the opposite. Being in or around water actually ups your need for protection from the sun because the water magnifies the sun’s harmful UV rays. The sun can not only penetrate the clear water of pools, but it can also be reflected off the surface and back on to your face, causing much more damage than if you were on dry land.
When at the pool, be sure to follow the reapplication instructions on your sunscreen. It might seem like a pain to reapply all the time, but it will spare your skin the danger and lasting negative effects of a sunburn.
FACT: Drowning People Are Often Completely Silent
This one is a terrifying fact, but it’s absolutely true. Movies and TV shows lead us to believe that if someone is drowning, they will splash around and try and yell and scream to get someone’s attention, but that’s not necessarily the case and one of the things that makes drowning an absolutely horrifying experience.
The thing that makes drowning so dangerous is what scientist and doctors call the Instinctive Drowning Response, and it does not look anything like in the movies. When a person is actually drowning, they lose control of their arm movements making it impossible for them to wave. Most drowning victims end up with their hands straight above their heads, or trying to push down on the surface of the water. Since speech is a secondary function to breathing, they hardly ever make a sound, and many of them then slip under the surface without being noticed.
The statistics are sobering: on average, roughly 750 children drown per year and of that number, about half will do it within 25 yards of a parent or other adult guardian. More tragic still, in about 10% of those total drownings, the adult will watch it happen, having no idea what’s actually going on. Shop Swim Floats
FICTION: You Can Pee In The Pool Because The Chlorine Cleans It
While chlorine does do a great job of keeping pools safe and clean by killing off harmful bacteria that can make you sick, the chemical doesn’t play nice with urine. Scientists have discovered that when chlorine mixes with uric acid, it produces a harmful chemical reaction. The substances that are formed from this reaction have been shown in labs to be bad for the human heart, lungs and central nervous system. Doctors also note that these substances can build up quickly and to dangerous levels if there are a lot of people swimming and peeing at the same time. The presence of urine can also actually breakdown the functioning of the chlorine, meaning you’ll be less protected against nasty bacteria.
So, while peeing in the pool seems harmless, it’s really not. Science has swooped in once again, giving you a reason to keep the pool and the bathroom separate.