Debunked: 5 common summer health myths

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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Novant Health

As you soak in the sun and hit the hiking trails this summer, don’t let some misconceptions and old wives’ tales get in the way taking good care of yourself or your family.

Natalie Yount, family nurse practitioner with Novant Health Family & Internal Medicine South Brunswick, debunks some common myths.

1. You can’t get sunburn on a cloudy day.

This one is completely false. While it may be deceiving, clouds don’t block the UV rays from the sun that causes sunburns. While you may not get as hot compared to a day with clear skies, the UV rays will easily cause sunburns if sunscreen isn’t properly applied.

Yount recommends putting sunscreen on 30 minutes in advance of going outside. The key is to make sure it is completely rubbed in and dry so it doesn’t easily wear off.

“This also goes for people of color. Even though you may have a higher concentration of melanin (skin pigment), you still need to use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer,” said Dr. Carmen Robinson of Novant Health Clemmons Family Medicine

2. Saltwater is good for cuts and wounds.

While clean saline, like the saline used in hospitals and health care systems, are good, ocean water is not necessarily a good choice. There are so many pollutants and other things in the ocean that can irritate cuts and wounds.

Before heading to the pool or beach, make sure to clean an open cut with warm soapy water. Then pat the cut dry, apply antibiotic ointment and then put on a waterproof bandage.

3. Poison ivy and poison oak rashes can be passed from person to person.

Wrong. Poison ivy and poison oak rashes can’t be passed from person to person. Instead, the oil from the plants can be passed if still on the skin and that’s what causes the irritation and rashes. Once the area with the rash is cleaned with warm soap and water, it is not passable from person to person.

“Remember that the resin from poison ivy/oak can stay on your clothes. Remember to wash contaminated clothing with warm, soapy water before reuse,” Robinson said.

4. Any liquid will do the trick when you’re thirsty.

It’s important to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. If you’re sweating a lot, you need to do one or two drinks with electrolytes, like Gatorade.

In comparison, sodas, teas and coffees aren’t good drinks to stay hydrated as the caffeine flushes the water out of your body. Also, alcohol acts as a diuretic, a substance that increases urine output much more rapidly than normal, which can lead to dehydration.

“A good rule of thumb is that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated.  So make sure to stay ahead of your thirst by drinking plenty of water throughout the day,” Robinson said.

5. The higher the SPF, the better.

There is no sunscreen that blocks the sun 100 percent. It’s always good to start with a gentle rub-on SPF 50 waterproof sunscreen before exposure to the sun. While anything over SPF 50 offers a little more water protection, it also offers more exposure to chemicals.