Summer is fast approaching. Before we know it, they’ll be announcing the latest heat waves on the 11 o’clock news and everyone will be hunkering down for the summer with their air conditioners and ice water. You’ll also hear people saying “get your base tan before you go on vacation,” or “fans don’t help when it’s hot.” These myths have been perpetuated for years, but few people know the truth behind them. “Myths stick with us because they make sense to us, on some level,” says Indianapolis pediatrician Rachel C. Vreeman, writer of several books that debunk common health myths. Here are some common summer myths that we’ve probably all heard with some solutions to beat the summer heat!
Myth: Wearing a tank top and shorts will keep me cool
Truth: This is only partly true, but there are other factors to consider. Dark colored clothing store more of the sun’s heat, making it feel warmer. Light-colored clothing, especially white, does not store heat in the same way, making it feel cooler against your skin. Another factor is air circulation. Wearing loose fitting clothing will allow your body’s heat to escape, rather than trapping it against your body. Long sleeves will also provide coverage from sunburns. Since sunburns feel hot, avoiding the burn will ensure that you keep cool in the days to come. Despite the fashion statement it will make, wearing an oversized white long sleeve shirt with baggy linen pants may be the best option to staying cool.
Myth: Don’t Swim For at Least 30 minutes After Eating.
Truth: Let’s face it—if you just ate a summertime BBQ buffet, you should probably wait a little bit before swimming, but it’s not for the reason that you think. It’s not because of cramps, but rather because you’ll feel uncomfortable. In fact, there are no documented drownings that were caused by eating. It’s also very unlikely that a cramp would disable you so much in the water that it would affect your survival. If you’re still worried, make sure that you are swimming in a place where you can exit the water quickly in the event of a cramp or discomfort.
Myth: Butter Will Soothe Sunburns
Truth: Butter is just moisturizing the burn, not soothing it. You’re better off using aloe vera gel or even cool ice-milk compresses (crushed ice and milk on towels). Cool temperatures work as an anti-inflammatory, while milk can be soothing. Ibuprofen can also be taken to ease a sunburn’s pain. Petroleum jelly can be used to keep your skin moisturized while it is healing.
Myth: All Sunscreens are the Same
Truth: Unfortunately, all sunscreens are not the same. Sunscreens come on sprays, lotions, and creams. For maximum effectiveness, choose a lotion or cream because they will soak into the skin, unlike a spray which might wipe off easily. Also, you should choose something with an SPF of 30 or higher, as well as checking to ensure that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that protect against both types of rays can also be called “broad spectrum.” Also, your eyes need protection in addition to your skin, so add a pair of sunglasses to your tote before heading to the beach or pool.
Myth: Too Much Air Conditioning Can Make You Sick
Truth: In the early 20th century, researchers found that the nasal cavity’s mucous membranes were affected by cooler temperatures, making it possible for the person to be more susceptible to airborne germs. This is correct, but you have to be exposed to the virus or bacteria in order to succumb to it. If the air is clean, then the colder temperatures should have no effect on your health. If the air isn’t clean, then your health is compromised regardless of the temperature. Air conditioners that purify the air can be used so that you don’t have to worry about getting sick. Air purifiers can also help give relief from allergies. Allergies can flair up during the summer because the heat dries vegetation, making it easier for pollen and other allergens to release into the air. Ensure that the air you breath is clean by routinely cleaning or changing the filters on your air conditioner.
Myth: Urinating on Jellyfish Stings Will Help the Pain
Truth: We’ve all heard of this one. Anyone who’s seen Friends knows that for jellyfish stings is to urinate on it. However, Monica, Chandler, and Joey were all traumatized by the event and you will be too if someone ever has to pee on you. The logic behind the myth is that urine contains ammonia, which can neutralize some of the venom. However, before you step up to help a friend’s pain, you may want to consider the alternatives. Vinegar can relieve the pain of a sting. Baking soda mixed with seawater can also help to ease your suffering. If neither is available, seawater or warm compresses can be used, but don’t put pressure on the wound, as this may cause more venom to be released into the body. When you get home, apply some calamine lotion to help soothe. Remember: peeing on someone is never the answer. It may even worsen your pain in some cases.
Myth: Getting a Base Tan Will Prevent Sunburn
Truth: This is mostly a myth. However, “there are some skin types that burn less once they have some tan,” says Dr. Parsons, a professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis. The reasoning behind this myth is that skin that has already built up pigmentation will have less damage when exposed to the sun again. This is not always the case. UV rays are damaging regardless of how tan you are. Any sun exposure can cause damage. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin, even if you’re tan. It will keep you looking younger and will reduce the amount of wrinkles you develop later in life. If you still prefer having a base tan, then make sure to use a sunscreen while catching these initial rays. It may impede your tanning progress, but your skin will thank you!
Myth: Swallowing Watermelon Seeds is Bad for You
Truth: We all heard this one as kids. We feared that the one watermelon seed we didn’t spit out would sprout in our stomach. Fortunately, the acid in our stomachs is strong enough to never have to worry about plants growing in there. In fact, watermelon seeds are eaten in other parts of the world, including Nigeria and China. They are high in calories and protein, but also high in fat. So, they are only bad for those of us who are watching our figures.
Myth: Taking a Dip in the Ocean Can Help Cuts and Scrapes
Truth: Saline solution is often used by medical professionals to flush a cut or scrape, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the ocean is just as effective. Yes, the ocean has salt in it, but it is much more complicated than that. The ocean also has sediments and microorganisms that can get into your wound and cause infections. The cleaner the water, the better off you’ll be.
Truth: This myth comes from people thinking that the heat produced by the motor will outweigh the benefits of having the fan on. The heat produced by the motor of a fan is inconsequential most of the time, but fans do have many benefits. Fans can get the air circulating in a room so that it doesn’t feel stuffy or muggy. Fans can also assist with evaporating sweat from your skin, which can carry away some of your body heat. A word of warning though—be sure to stay hydrated if you are sitting in front of a fan because fans can dry out your skin and carry moisture from your body. Misting fans are a great option because they release moisture into the air, helping with moisture levels and cooling. However, fans are a great alternative to expensive central cooling systems.
Myth: Cold Showers Will Cool You Off
Truth: A drastic change from hot to cold will actually trigger your body’s defense mechanism, according to Dr. Balu Gadhe, a senior medical officer with CareMore, a medical group in Cerritos, CA. This means that your body will be trying to defend against the rapid drop in temperature, constricting your blood vessels and working to produce more heat to level out the change. Instead of hopping into the frigid waters, opt for a more tepid shower, which will cool you off without your body fighting against it. Also, eating or drinking something cold can help to cool your body from the inside out. Keep plenty of beverages on hand with a beverage cooler. Just avoid drinking too many caffeinated beverages, as these act as a diuretic and can dehydrate you.