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Some people, including my mom, believe that it's very dangerous to bathe after having eaten without waiting approximately 1 hour (the amount of time depends on what you have eaten).

I have two questions:

  • Is this a real danger?
  • Are the chances of this happening worth giving up bathing? For example, the danger of someone dropping a vase on your head is real, but due to its unlikelihood we don't avoid walking under balconies.
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If you don't eat plumb, there isn't much danger, except if you always fell asleep after eating. ;) – user unknown Mar 9 '11 at 18:43
A bit late here, but I think some clarification is needed. Can we assume that by bathing you mean swimming, not just having a bath? And better answers might have been obtained if you had mentioned cramp: As @Brad comments, that is the common understanding of the causal link between eating and drowning... – Benjol May 3 '11 at 8:24
It's just a well-known mummies-trick, to prevent kids from eating too much ice-cream or french-fries at the beach. – user unknown Jun 27 '11 at 20:16
would it be better to change "bathing" to "swimming" in the title? In the US, "bathing" exclusively means getting into a bath tub, but i think "swimming" means the same thing everywhere in the English-speaking world – Kip Aug 3 '12 at 14:13
up vote 26 down vote accepted

If you eat a lot, you'll feel rather uncomfortable doing any physical exercise immediately after. As for getting stomach cramps and dying, though, that has never happened. So says snopes:

Whether oxygen-deprivation stomach cramps are real or not is open to debate, as is whether they can be brought on by eating right before engaging in strenuous activity. What's not in doubt, however, are the lack of deaths associated with swimming right after eating — there hasn't been so much as one drowning attributed to this, not even a near drowning. For something that was supposed to be fatal if you so much as dipped a toe, this particular old wives' tale proved to be a dud.

My emphasis...

See snopes for deeper sources.

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I was swimming up river after eating a lot, then suddenly couldn't move my limbs. What kept me alive was that I could stay afloat until the river flow carried me to one of its margins. – Jader Dias Apr 11 '11 at 19:00
Sounds really very scary, @Jader. Also sounds "post hoc, ergo prompter hoc." If it happened to me, and I didn't have an alternative explanation, I think I'd be going for a medical check-up shortly afterwards. – Oddthinking May 25 '11 at 12:33

So what to make of this study? The article can be found here. I don't know the reputation of that journal and I am not versed on this topic. They seem to show that most drowned people have had a meal just before drowning but clearly correlation is not causation. Any other recent development?

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That's a nice find! However, while they found a significant difference between accidental and suicidal drownings, I think the comparison of interest to us would be the difference between accidental drownings and non-drownings. Maybe 80% people who don't drown also have something in their stomach while swimming. Maybe significantly more than 80% do - we just don't know. As for the suicides, well, maybe suicidal people just don't eat as much on the day they commit suicide. – Ana Nov 6 '12 at 20:19

I once asked my biology teacher this question, and he explained that it's not the eating and swimming that's the problem (*), it's that all your blood is "busy" with the digestion, which could cause cramping in your extremities, causing you to potentially drown if you are, for example, too deep into the sea at the beach.

(*) although how adults told me this when I was a kid, it looked as if I'd die even if I showered after eating... they were specific enough to mention that 2 hours had to pass for it to be safe (I don't know if they were messing with me or they actually believed it.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

We require references for all significant claims here. Please edit your answer to include appropriate references. – Mad Scientist Nov 7 '12 at 7:11
@Fabian, it's what my biology teacher told me, I only have my experience. Feel free to remove the post if you like. – juanformoso Nov 7 '12 at 14:18
@JQAn: How does your biology teacher know? – Brian M. Hunt Nov 7 '12 at 14:56
@BrianM.Hunt, because he studied biology? Anyway, it was more than 10 years ago so I cannot ask him the exact chapter of the exact book he read that when he was studying before becoming a teacher... – juanformoso Nov 7 '12 at 15:41
@jmfsg this is an argument "ad verecundiam" and thus it doesn't stand on its own. – Sklivvz Feb 4 '13 at 7:27

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