Five Swimming Myths – Busted or Real Life?

From chlorine turning hair green to swimmer’s ear infections, the doctors at Gaston Medical Partners are often asked about common issues caused by swimming. This is especially true now that we’re in the middle of summer and hopping in the pool sounds like a great way to beat the heat.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, we’re hearing even more uncertainty about how to stay safe at the pool this year and what myths about swimming still stand. We asked the Gaston doctors which of these five common myths exist because they’re true and which we can debunk. 

MYTH 1: All that chlorine means you can’t get COVID-19 at the pool.

While chlorine works to kill germs in the water, that doesn’t mean you can’t come in contact with coronavirus while at the pool.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence to suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted through water, even non-chlorinated water. When used properly, and at the recommended levels, chlorine can kill most germs in the water within minutes. 

There is still COVID-19 risk associated with any activity, so don’t let the chlorine lull you into a false sense of safety. Since coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets, those droplets can still be transmitted by an infected person you’re near, even in the water, so staying socially distant from others outside your family is key. Those droplets can also be present on surfaces around the pool, like chairs and door handles. Following the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing and mask usage should still stand when you go swimming and keep it a safe summer activity.

MYTH 2: After you put on sunscreen, you should wait before getting in the water.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen to completely dry skin 15 minutes before heading outside. To be most effective against the sun’s rays, sunscreen needs time to absorb into your skin. Sunscreen application prior to getting to the pool is also great for children who, once they get near the water, just can’t wait to jump right in!

Remember that one application isn’t enough for your whole day by the pool. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. 

MYTH 3: You shouldn’t go swimming right after you eat.

The common thinking here is that blood is sent to aid in digestion and thus won’t be available to help power the arm and leg movements you need to swim. While it is true that the body diverts blood for digestion, it isn’t enough to cause issues for your mobility. 

Minor cramping is a possibility but there is no danger in hopping in the water after a meal.

MYTH 4: Chlorine turns blonde hair green.

If you see a green tint in light hair after swimming, it’s not the chlorine that’s causing this phenomenon. Copper is the responsible party. Often found in pool water, copper is oxidized by chlorine, causing the green tint that can cling to hair. 

The green color that is a result of the oxidation process will affect any hair color, it’s just most visible in light hair.

MYTH 5: Dunking your head underwater can cause swimmer’s ear.

Excess moisture in the ear, especially after swimming, can create the damp environment bacteria need to thrive. This bacteria growth causes an infection in the ear often called “swimmer’s ear.” Cotton swabs, earbuds and other items inserted in the ear can cause the same infection. 

To prevent swimmer’s ear, dry your ears with a towel after you’ve gone swimming or have bathed. An at-home preventative of one part rubbing alcohol and one part white vinegar can also be used as ear drops to dry out the ears and prevent the growth of bacteria. 

Still have questions or need a doctor’s help diagnosing an issue? Make an appointment with a Gaston Medical Partners doctor. Virtual visits are available and we’re keeping out offices safe for in-person visits.