As kids, we heard concerned adults warn us of the almighty, lethal “cramp” we would suffer if we ate and went for a swim. Though the origins of this idea aren’t clear, the apparent dangers of swimming after eating are addressed in the 1908 publication “Scouting for Boys”: “The cramp doubles you up in extreme pain so that you cannot move your arms or legs—and down you go. You may drown—and it will be your own fault.” Outside of absurd scare tactics, we aren’t sure what to make of this passage. There has never been a documented death by cramps, and the American Red Cross doesn’t list this post-meal waiting period on its list of safe swim practices. If you eat a big meal and immediately launch into any activity, there’s a chance you’ll experience some discomfort in your stomach. But that’s probably the worst that will happen.
Myth 2 – That chlorine smell just means the pool is clean.
This has been the summer mantra of poolside moms for decades. However, just because there’s a chemical-esque odor around the pool doesn’t mean the water is clean. It usually means the exact opposite. That smell is produced by contaminants (from both bodies and nature) that bind with chlorine to form pungent chloramines. A perfectly maintained pool should have low chloramine levels and very little odor.
Myth 3 – You don’t need sunscreen if you’re in the water.
Many people feel like the hot sun can’t get to them when they’re swimming around in cool, refreshing water, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to UV protection, being in the water is a double whammy. Not only does the water act as a magnifying agent for the sun’s rays, but it also does a good job at removing sunscreen from your body. It’s important to always reapply sunscreen after getting out of the water, regardless of whether the bottle’s label touts its waterproof qualities.
Myth 4 – Chlorine turns your hair green.
Chlorine has nothing to do with swimmers’ hair turning green in the summer. Instead, this may be the work of copper. Copper is often added to pools to keep algae growth in check, and it binds to the proteins in hair. Once this copper compound dries in hair, the green color can become pronounced when the pH level is raised with a shampooing later. To avoid green hair, shower before your hair’s had a chance to dry post-swim, or consider wearing a swim cap.
Myth 5 – You don’t need to shower before hopping in the pool.
It’s always a good idea to take a shower before getting in the pool. As mentioned earlier, pungent chloramines are produced when chlorine binds with foreign matter, including: cosmetics, sweat, body oils, urine, and other human byproducts. Do your part to keep the pool clean and enjoyable for everyone by showering beforehand.