The biggest summer myths and why you shouldn't believe them

11/01/2019

Summer is well and truly here, and that means beach days, swimming, sun and more sun. You may have heard these beachy myths growing up and always believed them without question, but we're here to tell you why they're not true. Call us the MythBusters if you please!

You won't get sunburnt on a cloudy day
Sunburn is caused by the level of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the day, not how hot it is. So even on a cooler summer day, the UV levels can be intense. If it's cloudy, you may think you're even less likely to get burnt, but the UV radiation can reach you through clouds, and can even be stronger due to reflection from the bottom of the clouds.

No matter what you think the weather looks like, don't skip the sunscreen. You can check the daily Sun Protection Alert here for your area, which will tell you what time of day you need to protect your skin and eyes, even on cloudy days.

SLIP SLOP SLAP WRAP guys!

Don't go swimming on a full stomach
This myth has been passed on from generation to generation over the years: that if you go swimming straight after eating you will get bad cramp which could lead to drowning. There has been absolutely no proof that swimming straight after eating is dangerous though. 

It stemmed from when it was thought that blood was drawn towards the digestive tract after eating, which left muscles short of blood supply to properly function. So if you went swimming straight after lunch, you wouldn't be able to stay afloat. While yes, your blood is slightly redistributed in the body to aid with digestion, it won't have any major effect on your muscle function - so you don't need to wait at all to go swimming. 

Wait 30 minutes after applying sunscreen before you go outside
This one's a bit tricky, because yes you should wait about half an hour after applying sunscreen before exposing yourself to the sun, but it's not for the reason you think. 

We were always told that our sunscreen wouldn't work straight away because it needs time to activate on the skin - that's definitely not true. Sunscreen works as soon as it's applied. The reason we are told to wait before going out in the sun is actually just to let the sunscreen dry, so that we get an even coat all over the body. If some parts haven't dried, it's likely to be easily rubbed off by accident, or sweated off, leading to sunburn. So it's safer to wait under cover until your sunscreen dries before getting them rays. 

Sea water helps heal wounds
It's pretty likely you were told growing up that going swimming in the ocean would help heal your cuts. While there is actually some scientific basis to this, sea water could leave you worse off than you already were. Concentrated salt water, called saline, is often used in medicine for sterility, but there is a major difference between pure salt water and sea water. Mainly, sea water can carry lots of bacteria that thrives in this environment, which can potentially be harmful if it enters your body. This means it's safer to avoid swimming in the ocean when you have open wounds - stick to the sterile saline solution!

Peeing on a jellyfish sting
A lot of our NZ beaches are unfortunately plagued by jellyfish, so you may have heard the best way to relieve a sting is by having someone pee on it. Your urine contains Urea, which does have beneficial effects for jellyfish stings, but the Urea is far too diluted in urine to have any benefit. In fact, the salt in your urine may actually trigger more nematocysts to fire - the barbs which inject the poison from the jellyfish into your skin. 

Basically, peeing on a jellyfish sting is only going to create a mess and maybe some embarrassment for all parties involved. So what should you do if you happen to be stung by one of the little creatures this summer? Concentrated vinegar has been proven to be the most effective relief - it stops nematocysts from being fired. So maybe pack a small bottle of vinegar in your beach bag just to be safe!