June 14, 2011 -- You probably already know that going for a swim within 30 minutes of chowing down on a sandwich isn't going to cause you to cramp up and sink helplessly to the bottom of the pool. But there's plenty more lame summertime advice that you might still believe. We set the record straight.
MYTH: Peeing on a jellyfish sting will ease the pain.
Though it may sound convenient -- if also totally gross! -- urine hasn't been proven to curb the hurt. What has: vinegar. "Its acidity is believed to inactivate the stingers and diminish the pain," says Stanford University School of Medicine emergency-medicine doctor Paul Auerbach, M.D., author of Medicine for the Outdoors. Soak a paper towel in household white vinegar and hold it on the wound for about 30 minutes. Afterward, use an OTC hydrocortisone cream to quell any itching. (If, however, you start to feel dizzy or nauseated or develop any kind of rash, you may be having an allergic reaction and should get yourself to a doctor right away, says Auerbach.)
MYTH: Going in and out of air-conditioned buildings can make you sick.
If you feel congested or start sniffling, it's likely due to summer allergies, says pulmonologist Neil Schachter, M.D., author of The Good Doctor's Guide to Colds and Flu.
"People who have allergies -- even small sensitivities -- may be affected when moving from a clean-air environment into one that's full of Mother Nature's irritants," he says. If your symptoms are on overdrive, try staying inside on very hot, humid days, when outdoor allergens are at their most potent. And keep your home dust-and mold-free by cleaning your AC filter every month or by investing in a HEPA air purifier that nixes 99 percent of airborne contaminants.
MYTH: The safest place to be during a lightning storm is in a car because it has rubber tires.
You'll be safe in a car, but not because of the rubber tires, says John Jensenius, a lightning-safety specialist for the National Weather Service. The car's frame is like a metal cage -- if struck, lightning will flow around its outside.
(Metal is a good conductor of electricity; rubber is not.) If you're driving in a storm, don't touch metal door handles or the radio, which is wired to the outside antenna.
MYTH: Flip-flops are kind to your feet.
"Most flip-flops don't have adequate arch support, cushioning, or shock absorption," says Manhattan-based foot doctor Jacqueline Sutera, D.P.M. Wearing them all summer, every summer could lead to pinched foot nerves, heel pain, tendinitis, and strained arches. If you can't quit flops entirely, buy ones that have at least a three-quarter-inch semi-cushioned sole and built-in arch support. Even better, go for a strappy sandal; simple thongs force your toes into an unhealthy clenched position when you walk, encouraging hammertoe growth. Or try cute, beachy wedges (three inches high or less), which offer more support in just about every foot area and help distribute your body weight more evenly.
MYTH: A dip in the pool can do double duty as a shower.
Consider this: Most people don't rinse off before they go swimming. "Chemicals in personal-care products, sweat, and makeup can interfere with chlorine, making it much less effective," says Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program. The result? Public pools in particular are often swimming with nasties such as cryptosporidium, which can bring on diarrhea, ear infections, and skin rashes. Showering after a dip can wash bacteria off your skin and cut your risk of getting sick. Use soap -- a quick hose-off may not be enough.
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