Is it OK to swim after eating? Medical expert answers age-old question

Growing up, did your parents insist you had to wait 30 minutes between eating and swimming?

Sorry, but your parents were wrong. That’s according to Amanda Joy, certified physician’s assistant and associate medical director at MedStar Health Urgent Care.

“As a child, I was also told that we had to sit out for 30 minutes,” Joy told WTOP. In her case, adults would say that “all the blood was needed in your belly, so your arms and legs wouldn’t work well.”

“That is totally not true,” Joy said.

While it’s OK to jump in the water after a meal, she advised caution if you are tired or feel very full. You might also get a cramp.

“You just need to be smart about when you get into water,” she said.

Joy said she’s more concerned about people swimming when it’s raining because of the threat of a thunderstorm or lightning strike.

As for sun protection, Joy said to use sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF and reapply it every two hours. You should apply sunscreen more often if you are going in the water.

As part of National Sun Safe Week, from May 20 to 27, MedStar Health is flying banner planes over area beaches, including Ocean City, Maryland. Their goal is to remind beachgoers to reapply sunscreen and take precautions when out in the sun.

The hospital network is also installing “sunscreen towers” this summer at major events in Maryland and D.C. There, visitors can grab free SPF in case they forget to bring their own.

Joy said that if you spend time outdoors this summer, wear protective clothing and be mindful of medications that could make you more sensitive to the sun. And, of course, stay hydrated.

Joy said people should avoid drinking only plain water and instead drink water mixed with oral rehydration solutions.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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