15 Biggest Health Mistakes People Make in Summer
And how to instantly avoid them
In the winter, everyone is bundled up indoors drinking hot chocolate and binge-watching Netflix. In fact, the most common injury is due to cold weather-related boredom. (Don't fact-check that.) Then in the summer, everyone comes out of hibernation and heads outdoors into the sunshine the second the temperature heats up—and with the increased temps come a long list of health mistakes. Here are the biggest to watch out for this season. And for more coverage of our all-time favorite season, don't miss the 30 Best Things about Summer.
Not Drinking Drink Enough Water
This seems like an obvious one, but it's continually one of the most common health mistakes made once the temperature rises. And, it's easy to prevent. According to Harvard Medical School, drinking H2O throughout those especially toasty days is key: "In the summer, when it's very hot and you're sweating more and exercising a lot, yes, you need to drink more fluids," said Melanie Hoenig, MD. But how much? Hoenig says you don't have to necessarily drink eight glasses. Simply drink until you feel your thirst has been comfortably quenched. And if you're a fan of fancier water, check out The One Bottled Water Brand Dwayne Johnson Guzzles by the Gallon.
Wearing the Wrong Sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses during the summer is incredibly important for protecting your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says sun exposure can increase your chances of developing cataracts and even cancerous eye growths, but not just any of them will do an A+ job.
According to one derm, mirrored lenses block more UV rays than regular tinted styles. Plus, they also protect the skin around your eyes better, helping prevent wrinkles from popping up in the future. For more on sunglasses, check out Best Sunglasses for Summer 2016.
Getting a "Base Tan"
Plenty of people think that in order to protect their skin, they need to have a "base tan." Unfortunately, it's a total misconception and there's nothing remotely safe about any sort of tan, whether it's from direct sunlight or a tanning bed. A frequent message from the industry is that a tan offers protection against sunburn. Although the message has an intuitive appeal, scientific studies have proved it false. According to Stephen Q. Wang, MD, the idea of a base tan isn't just dangerous — it's also irresponsible: "A frequent message from the industry is that a tan offers protection against sunburn. Although the message has an intuitive appeal, scientific studies have proved it false. The low level of photoprotection afforded by a tan is far outweighed by the damage incurred in its development and maintenance." For more on protecting your skin, check out 30 Best Ways to Have Your Best Skin.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
While you should definitely be chugging water, you might want to cool it on the alcohol — especially in the summer heat. According to UnityPoint Health, enjoying a cold drink when the temp is hot can not only lead to dehydration — alcohol makes you lose fluids twice as quickly as normal! — but it can also turn into heat stroke, something so serious that it can cause organ failure.
Skipping Out on Wearing a Life Jacket
If you're often out on the water — whether that's boating or cruising around in a kayak — don't leave your life jacket on the shore, even if you consider yourself on par with Michael Phelps' swimming abilities. In the Coast Guard's 2016 report, 80 percent of fatal boating accidents were due to drowning — and out of those victims, 83 percent weren't wearing life jackets. It's something simple that might feel silly, but could save your life: you never know what's going to happen.
Being Under-Cautious with Fireworks
With fireworks becoming more and more accessible, the rate of injuries isn't going down anytime soon. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 11,100 firework-related injuries treated in U.S. hospitals in 2016, and one Mayo Clinic trauma physician has a simple explanation why.
"People have a false sense of security when it comes to fireworks. The reality is that often people are not a safe distance from exploding fireworks, or even worse, the firework actually ignites in their hand. These scenarios can lead to facial burns, eye injuries and amputation of fingers or the hand, especially among children," said Donald Jenkins, MD. To ensure you stay safe, the Mayo Clinic recommends never aiming fireworks at anyone, never lighting them while they're in your hand, only lighting them when other people are out of range, and always wearing eye protection.
Being Careless with Food
When it comes to foodborne illnesses, summertime is when the dangerous bacteria is thriving. According to the Mayo Clinic, that bacteria grows faster when it's hot outside, meaning it's even more important to make sure you're keeping perishable food cold or refrigerated and not leaving leftovers out for more than two hours. That way you can enjoy cooking and eating outdoors without coming down with a nasty sickness.
Working Out in the Heat
If you're working out in the heat this summer, you have to be extra careful. The Mayo Clinic says it's key to take things slow at first and take frequent breaks — especially if you're used to exercising indoors since it can take a couple weeks for your body to adjust. And to make sure the warm temps don't kill your vibe and make you sick, keep chugging your water: it will help your body sweat and keep you cool.
Not Wearing Mosquito Repellent
According to the CDC, insect-borne illnesses are increasing like crazy. While there were 27,000 a year in 2004, there were a whopping 96,000 in 2016 — and mosquito bites in particular can lead to life-threatening infections, including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. To protect yourself, make sure you always have insect repellent on hand to fight off the blood-sucking pests: ones that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone as an active ingredient will keep them away.
Not Letting Your Ears Dry Out After Swimming
If summertime means swimming 24/7, then making sure you avoid swimmer's ear is a must. The infection is due to a bacterial growth from excessive moisture in your ear — AKA not drying out your ears and leaving water behind — and if it's not treated, it can lead to temporary hearing loss, long-term infection, and bone and cartilage damage, says the Mayo Clinic. To avoid it, just make sure your ears stay dry after swimming, tilting your head to each side and letting the water drain out.
You're Charring All Your Food
Charring your food on the grill makes everything taste better. Unfortunately, it can also put your health at risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, the chemicals that form when you cook meat at high temps could be associated with cancer. To stay on the safe side, just try to avoid blackening your protein. And, skip red meat: it's been linked to cancer in humans even without the charring. Eek.
Not Paying Attention to Poisonous Plants
Spending lots of time running around barefoot? Be extra cautious of what you're walking into. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it's important to know exactly what poison ivy, oak, and sumac look like so you can avoid them at all costs. While a typical reaction is a rash caused by urushiol — an oil in the plant — and lasts 12 to 72 hours, you could also have something much more serious, becoming unable to breathe or swallow.
Not Checking for Ticks
Mosquitoes aren't the only pests to watch out for this summer. According to the CDC, the increased rate of insect-borne illnesses is due to ticks, too, which can easily make their way onto your body and cause Lyme disease and Heartland virus. To make sure they don't affect your health, layer up your clothing on hikes, scan your body after you've been in the woods or in tall grass, and wear tick-fighting repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 as an active ingredient.
Not Wearing Safety Glasses During Yard Work
Wearing safety glasses while you're outdoors doing yard work might look a little nerdy to your neighbors, but it sure is better than walking around with one eye for the rest of your life. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your eyes are especially vulnerable while you're doing outdoors chores: "We see eye injuries fairly often. People might be using a string trimmer and a piece of dirt or mulch gets flung into the eye, causing injury. Or we see a patient who was pruning a bush, and bent down and then a branch flew into their face. Glasses can help prevent these sorts of injuries," Thomas Waters, MD.
Always Wear a Helmet While Biking
Even if you're just riding your bike to the store this summer, a helmet is crucial. The Federal Highway Administration reports that even though 70 to 80 percent of all fatal bicycle crashes are due to head injuries, only 18 percent of bicyclists wear helmets. The good news is wearing a helmet isn't just for show — it can do a lot of good. They've been found to be 85 to 88 percent effective in making those head and brain injuries less severe and could end up saving your life. For more on summer, check out the 30 Worst Things about Summer.
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