9 Summer Health Myths -- Debunked

By , By Christine M. Porretta, of Woman's Day

Fact vs. Fiction

Should you swim with a full stomach? Let scrapes air out? Tinkle on a jellyfish sting? There once may have been some wisdom behind the advice (although probably not with the jellyfish sting), but many summer suggestions are outdated. With the lowdown from top experts, find out which warm-weather beliefs are based on real common sense—and which are complete nonsense.

Myth: Put butter on a sunburn.

Truth: While butter’s an accessible cool salve for a hot burn from cooking, you’re better off saving your stick for your buns. “Butter is just moisturizer with no specific burn-healing properties,” says Margaret E. Parsons, MD, an associate clinical professor in the dermatology department at the University of California, Davis. A better home cure? “Cool ice-milk compresses (crushed ice and milk on towels) are soothing,” she says. “The coolness is anti-inflammatory, and the milk is mild and not acidic, so it won’t irritate skin.” Ibuprofen, another anti-inflammatory, can also be helpful taken with water. “Then, a day or two after the burn’s cooled down, keep the skin well moisturized to help it heal,” explains Dr. Parsons. While you could use butter at this point, why waste food? Stick with petroleum jelly. But if your sunburn blisters or swells, see a doctor for topical steroid creams or oral steroids, suggests Dr. Parsons.

Myth: Poison ivy is contagious.

Truth: This is one rash that won’t rub off on others. “You react to poison ivy and its friends poison oak and sumac when the plant’s chemical urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all) gets on your skin,” explains Dr. Parsons. “Once the chemical is washed off your skin, you can’t spread the rash by scratching it or scratching others. Since the rash often develops two to three days after exposure, the chemical is almost certainly washed off,” she says. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), this delayed reaction can give the illusion that the rash is spreading when it’s not. To skirt an itchy situation, Dr. Parsons suggests immediately tossing clothes in the washing machine and washing exposed skin and possible contact areas with soap with some detergent.


Myth: Saltwater heals wounds.

Truth: Even though your doctor may use saline, you shouldn’t rinse scrapes and cuts in the sea. “What we use is carefully made, pure water with salt content, like what the body produces,” explains Sandra Fryhofer, MD, a past president of the American College of Physicians and a clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Saltwater from the ocean can actually irritate a wound and contain infection-causing bacteria. Instead, Dr. Fryhofer recommends cleaning scrapes and cuts with “clear, clean water—tap is fine for most wounds—and mild soap.” 

Click here for 6 more debunked summer health myths!

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Did any of these surprise you? If so, which one(s)?

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Thanks for the useful informantion. Report
I've heard you can "get" poison ivy from your dog's coat, if they have been running around in it.

I contracted a severe case of poison ivy once - on my hands, legs, arms, even on my face after I touched it with my hands. Took months to finally clear up. Now, however, poison ivy has no effect on me. Nary a itch when I come in to contact with it, which is good because it is all over our property! Report
I have found that lavender essential oil works wonders on sunburn - especially when mixed with aloe. Put a few drops of the oil neat onto the sunburn or mix a drop or two with aloe and spread on the burn. Soaking in a cool/lukewarm bath with a few drops of lavender first will work well to cool the skin down, too. Report
Thanks for the info. Report
Interesting blog. Thanks for the debunking info! Report
When I was young, the mosquitoes loved me. Every summer, I'd be covered in bites. The only thing that seemed to really relieve the itching and puffiness was swimming in the cold Atlantic Ocean. After a day of swimming with the family, the sting and the swelling would all be gone.

I will say the milk cure surprized me. Report
Thank you for confirming my belief that a reaction to poison ivy isn't "catching." I can't tell you how many people have thought that was true... and that poison ivy reaction "spreads." As someone sent out yearly by my husband to pull up that wicked weed from around our house, I get a mild case every spring, usually just a few small spots around my wrists.
Also, I was surprised you didn't mention aloe vera, which is good for all types of burns. You can buy it in bottles of the pure juice, though using a fresh leaf is best. Used immediately, it even keeps burns from blistering. Report
Thank you for sharing all this great information the poison Ivy one was interesting for sure. Report
very interesting post Report
The poison ivy one surprised me for sure. Report
I don't believe that poison ivy can't be passed on. Sure maybe the rash can't, but it takes a while for the oils to be washed off. It can be passed to others. Report
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