When my twins were newborns they had bad reflux. They were prescribed Losec to help alleviate their pain. We gave them their dose in the evenings as this worked better for us than the mornings. At some point we switched the bath time of the twins and it would happen just before or just after we gave Losec. Suddenly, the likelihood of vomiting up their medication in under 20 minutes increased dramatically, and with reflux kids vomiting is always a possibility. I couldn’t understand why. I spoke to a nurse about it, who asked me a series of questions and then gave a long why-are-people-so-stupid sigh and told me to stop bathing the twins within an hour of giving medication. She wanted an hour bath free either side of administering the losec. The movement from the water was causing movement inside the body because we’re mainly made up of water, so we like to join in. All that vomiting came on after relatively calm jaunts in the bath, imagine how much more movement playing in the pool or swimming lessons inspire?
When I was a kid (Gen X) we were told to never eat one hour before swimming otherwise we would get a stitch and we would DIE!!! Pretty dramatic stuff. Same thing with any exercise, don’t eat an hour before or you’ll get a stitch, and depending on the activity either a death threat or told we wouldn’t be able to play for awhile. And then Gen X became adults, we became our own bosses and decided we could eat whenever the heck we wanted and not be told we can’t play or get threatened with death, because we’re adults gosh darn it and we’ll do as we please. Studies came out disproving the link between cramping and swimming. We cheered. Unfortunately we kind of forgot about the vomit, probably because we don’t really vomit much as adults so we don’t think about eating and exercise until we’re half way through the most intense yoga session of our lives and regretting eating lunch on the way over. (Yes, I did this recently, I didn’t vomit but I felt like it, but mistake, HUGE!) Plus, adult muscles are better developed, our lower esophageal sphincters stronger, so we’re a heck of a lot less likely to vomit because of strenuous exercise or moving water.
Kids aren’t quite as developed as us adults. It’s not such a great idea to smash down a tub of fruit salad straight before leaping into active water play or swimming lessons. All that water swirling about makes all the fluid inside your little one swirl about too, and increases the likelihood that they’ll vomit up big chunks of food into the pool, which stops playtime for not only your little one but also everyone else as pool staff clean out the chunks of food and add extra chemicals to kill the germs.
If your little one has had a vomit in the pool, definitely rethink your feeding strategy, because it could be as simple as too much food, not sufficiently digested, just looking for an escape. Most of the time vomit in the pool will be benign like that. However, sometimes reasons can be serious, so also check to see if they have taken on too much water. This can be a serious issue resulting in fatality. Things to think about are, have you been submerging them repeatedly, or have they been submerging themselves? Is the vomit full of water and frothy? After swimming have they started having difficulty breathing or talking? Are they lethargic? Do they have chest pain? If so, you should take your child to see a doctor immediately to ensure they don’t have water on their lungs. Children’s bodies aren’t quite as developed as adults so it is easier for them to get water on their lungs than adults.
Nobody wants to go through the worry and fear that a child may die from taking on too much water, vomiting being one of the warning signs, so don’t set yourself up for the stress of anxiously watching over them simply due to vomiting because they’ve eaten too much, too soon, before going in the water. Parents worry, I know this because I am a parent with three kids, if your child vomits in the water in the back of your mind you’ll assume the worst, even if you’re putting on a brave face. So please, don’t do this to yourself, to your child, to aquatic centre staff, or other patrons. Don’t increase your risk of vomiting. Avoid feeding your kids close to swim lesson time starting. Try packing an extra snack in their lunch bag that they can eat in the car on the way home before swimming to avoid getting home, bolting food, then running off to swim. Try to book times, easier said than done, that allow a gap between eating and getting in the pool. Pack a snack to give them after they’ve gotten changed out of their swimmers, so that if they are perpetually hungry they know they have something coming and don’t get too grumpy. Because there are few things worse than sitting by your child’s side wondering if they are going to die, particularly if the vomit has nothing to do with taking on too much water and is symptomatic of too much food and not of over submersion and water on the lungs. I implore you, don’t set yourself up for that kind of stress.
Swimming is a skill that saves lives, it is vital that we all learn how to be safe in the water, and I encourage anyone, child or adult, to get swim lessons, because you never know when you might end up in the water. Read more about swimming being a skill that saves lives here, and find out about some good swim centres too.