Summer is our favorite season, but it doesn’t come without its challenges — and we’re not just talking about finding the right crown braid to keep your hair off your neck or a summer makeup trend that you won’t sweat off 15 minutes into a barbecue. You don’t have to be a former beach lifeguard to have heard the terrifying warnings about jellyfish stings and swimming after eating, but how many of the tips on preventing and treating these summertime woes are even true? Here’s a breakdown of summertime “facts” that are really just fiction. Whoever made these up must have been suffering from some serious sunstroke.
1. Wait at least an hour after you eat before you go swimming. Anxious mothers organizing pool parties and beach trips are probably the most responsible for perpetuating this myth. The fear is that even a modest helping of potato salad will send your body into a shockwave of cramps as soon as you touch the water. And while it’s true that the digestive process does divert blood flow away from the muscles and towards the gut, there aren’t any documented cases of someone dying from swimming on a full stomach.
2. Too much air conditioning will make you sick. If this myth helps you avoid the temptation of blasting your window unit 24-7, then by all means keep believing so you can save some money (and the environment). But there’s no science to directly correlate summertime colds with air conditioning. If you’re allergy-prone or have any other lung issues, you might experience a flare-up from the change in air quality, but there’s no evidence that air conditioning itself can lead to illness or disease. However, if you feel like you constantly have the summer sniffles, it might be worth cleaning the filter.
3. The number one cure for a jellyfish sting is… a number one. Nineties kids learned about this myth from Friends. In “The One With the Jellyfish,” Monica gets stung at the beach, and Joey suggests… you know. But in reality, peeing (there, we said it!) on a jellyfish sting can actually cause even more pain, because urine can aggravate the jellyfish’s stingers into releasing more venom. Instead, wash with seawater, and then rinse with vinegar or baking soda to disinfect. Then soak in hot water.
4. As long as you have a good “base tan,” lying out in the sun is totally safe. To be clear: There is absolutely no such thing as a safe tan. If you have to be out in the sun, you should always use sunscreen — and make sure you’re applying enough. On average, people only smear on about half the amount they should, meaning your SPF 50 might really be more like an SPF 20. A good rule of thumb is the “shot glass” rule: Use about 1 ounce for all the exposed areas of your body, or enough to fill a shot glass.
5. Eating garlic makes you less attractive to mosquitos. There are plenty of health benefits to giving yourself garlic breath with every meal, but bug protection isn’t one of them. Our best guess is that this one got started because mosquitos suck your blood, kind of like tiny, buzzing, garlic-fearing vampires. But while garlic might have some bug-repellent qualities, mosquito control experts say it’s not actually strong enough to be effective for a long period of time. And you’d have to not only eat it but rub it all over your skin. Um, we’ll pass.
6. Poison ivy can be spread from person to person, and gets worse when you scratch. You need to come into direct contact with a poison ivy plant — and be allergic to it — to develop the rash, and you won’t make it spread to other areas of your body if you give into the compulsion to scratch. You should definitely try to resist the urge to claw at your already irritated skin, but you don’t have to worry about getting close for some summer lovin’ just because you’re covered in itchy, blotchy spots.
Tweet us your tried and true tips for curing or preventing hot-weather problems @BritandCo!