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4 Common Swimming & Water Myths

Hot weather and cool water are made for each other. What could be more fun and refreshing than to splash around in a local pool or head to the lake or beach on a nice summer day?

Of course, where there is water there are also risks. Check the truth behind these commonly held water safety beliefs.

1. Someone who is drowning will splash and yell

We see it in the movies, but the flailing, waving arms and cries for help do not give a true picture of what drowning looks like. There are terrible stories of people drowning just a few feet away from family and friends who had no idea what was happening. In reality, someone who is drowning doesn’t have the breath to yell or the strength to kick and scream.

This is what a drowning person looks like:

  • They bob up and down in the water, staying in one spot.
  • Their arms may move up and down by their sides because they are trying to move themselves above water.
  • They are silent and do not respond when called to.
  • Their mouth is at water level.

2. Wait an hour after eating to swim or you will get a cramp

Moms everywhere share this bit of wisdom, but it actually has no basis. The explanation sounds science-based — during digestion your body is sending blood to the digestive tract, reducing supply to your arms and legs, so you will cramp up and be unable to move in the water. However even if you do get a cramp, it won’t be so severe that you become immobile.

A more likely cause of cramping in hot weather is dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water when you are outside in the heat for long periods of time.

3. If you know how to swim you don’t need a life vest

You may not like the look of a neon-colored flotation device, but it’s especially important to wear when boating, paddleboarding, or kayaking.

According to the International Lifesaving Federation, 25% of drowning victims are swimmers. In a boating accident, a good swimmer may hit their head, be dehydrated or simply exhausted from a day in the sun. Even in a normally calm lake, bad weather can cause strong waves that throw a swimmer off balance. Swimming is a valuable skill, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for a life vest when boating.

4. You should practice holding your breath under water

Remember those contests to see who could hold their breath under water for the longest time? Pinched nose, covered mouth. It seems like a good idea to build that skill, and it’s a fun competition, but it is not safe.

Both kids and healthy adults have drowned during attempts to hold their breath for as long as possible. Here’s why:

  • Breathing provides oxygen to the blood and eliminates carbon dioxide.
  • When you hold your breath you are not getting rid of carbon dioxide.
  • Oxygen levels fall, and cause you to pass out.
  • It happens so quickly that the person does not realize what is happening, and they pass out underwater.

The U.S. Masters Swimming encourages swimmers to master controlled breathing. But more importantly, when your body is telling you to breathe, be sure that you breathe.

For more articles on water recreation, click here.

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson, a writer and editor originally from New York, moved to Nashville more than 25 years ago and considers herself more Tennessean than Yankee these days. She has written about health care and wellness for a variety of publications.

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