Three Swimming Pool Lies I Grew Up With

A Guest Blog by Mom and Swimmer Kristen Swope

I grew up believing some pool-related myths that I realize rather belatedly were my parents’ bizarre, yet caring way to keep me from drowning or getting injured during unsupervised swims.  A few childhood pool story-swapping moments with friends revealed other gems that were also considered truths at the time. I’ve decided to compile the top three ones I believe are worth correcting even if some of them seem downright funny.

1. If you urinate in a swimming pool, the chlorine will turn the water around you blue.

My childhood friends and I actually fell for this one hook, line and sinker!  What can I say?  It was an effective tool to make us use the toilet instead of just hoping our bladders wouldn’t betray us as we relieved our childhood selves in the pool. So finally, the truth:  No “special” chlorine makes the water blue (or green, if we were to go by primary color combinations) when urine mixes with pool water.  It would be great if someone came up with a formula to make this possible.  How quickly we would correct this unhygienic practice!

2. Chlorine in pool water causes rashes and eye irritation.

Research and personal experience as an adult would tell me that properly chlorinated pool water will do no such thing, and that kiddie rash, red eyes, and other forms of skin and eye irritation are usually due to irritants formed when disinfectants combine with pool water contaminants, such as urine, perspiration and body oils. This can be remedied by making sure the pool water pH is in the right range (7.2-7.8), and appropriate chlorine levels (1 – 4 parts per million).

3. You should not swim right after eating.

If you grew up in a family like mine, chances are you know how frustrating it was during those times when the pool seemed to be calling out your name and you just want to jump in, but couldn’t…because you’d just eaten a sandwich. Unfortunately, this old wives’ tale stayed with me right until adolescence, when I hemmed and hawed at a swimming party because I had eaten two slices of pizza and was terrified that cramps would cause me to drown in the pool. My friends laughed at my apprehension and plunged right into the pool water, their bellies full of pizza.

Several interviews with competitive swimmers revealed that they, in fact, eat normal-sized meals (definitely not just one sandwich or a couple of slices of pizza) before going about their fitness routines in the pool. While more complex swimming styles such as the butterfly stroke admittedly are harder to execute on a full stomach, none of the athletic swimmers I talked to ever experienced cramping because they ate something prior to casual swimming.

I am now the mom of an inquisitive and swimming pool-crazy little girl named Isabel.  I realize that telling her tall tales about the pool is silly, and that it’s best to communicate tried-and-tested and fact-based rules to ensure her safety whenever she’s in or near a swimming pool.

Kristen Swope is a freelance writer based in Fremont, California, who has a five year old daughter and is a swimming enthusiast.