Summer brings with it some wonderful health benefits, like the opportunity to eat local fresh fruits and vegetables, and spend more time being active outdoors. Summer also brings with it some health risks—and flawed information on how to handle those problems. Here we clear up three myths so that you can stay healthy and safe this season.1. Bug repellent is bad for you. Most bug bites are harmless, unless you’re allergic. But if you’re in an area known for insects that carry Zika, Lyme, or other insect-borne viral diseases, you need an effective bug repellent—preferably one containing deet, a chemical (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) that works by preventing biting insects from landing on your skin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus repels mosquitoes, too, but it doesn’t last as long as chemical preparations. Provided products with 20% to 30% of deet are used as directed (don’t spray directly on face or in enclosed areas, don’t apply over cuts or irritated skin, avoid over-application, to name a few key precautions), research shows they’re safe to use and an effective protection against bug bites .
2. You don’t need sunscreen in the shade. If you tend to avoid exposing your skin to direct sunlight by opting for a pool or beach umbrella or shady spot, good for you— you’re protecting your skin from direct harmful UV rays. However, that effort may not be as effective as you think. Research shows that shade doesn’t provide adequate protection because skin is still exposed to indirect UV rays and rays reflected from surfaces such as concrete, sand, and water. Use sunscreen even when you plan to seek the shade. When you’re in direct sun, wear sunscreen plus a broad-brimmed hat and protective clothing.
3. You can’t be dehydrated if you’re not thirsty. Remaining hydrated is crucial to your health. Without enough water, you may feel fatigued and dizzy, experience muscle cramps and constipation, and undergo a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Dehydration occurs when fluid intake is less than fluid loss. A good test is to check the color of your urine—the paler, the better. Don’t rely on thirst to remind you to drink—you can become dehydrated even if you’re not feeling thirsty, especially during exercise. If you’re exercising in the heat, drink water or other fluids beforehand, then continue drinking throughout your activity and for several hours afterward. Keep in mind that’s in not just fluids that hydrate; plenty of fruits and vegetables are hydrating, too.