If you look at the statistics, many children do die of drowning worldwide every year. In China it’s the leading cause of accidental death in children. However, eating does not feature as a contributory factor. The US Centers for Disease Control, for instance, lists the main risks as the inability to swim, the lack of fencing around pools, lack of supervision. In adults, another major cause is drinking alcohol before swimming.
Regardless, there are other good reasons not to encourage swimming straight after lunch – avoiding feeling sick and staying out of the sun while it’s at its hottest in the early afternoon, for example. So telling kids they might drown because they’ve just eaten is one way of getting them to listen to you. But from the evidence, it doesn’t appear to be backed up by science.
You can hear more Medical Myths on Health Check on the BBC World Service.
All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.