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The 8 Biggest Myths About Summer

Summertime and the living is -- well, if you're worrying about shark attacks, heatstroke, jellyfish stings or poison ivy -- apparently not so easy. But it’s time to put those summer myths to rest. Here's the real deal.

Photo: Thinkstock / The Nest

Shark Attacks

Fact: Sharks live in the ocean. Apart from that, there are a lot (and we mean a lot) of myths surrounding these monsters of the sea (thanks a lot, Jaws). First myth: Shark attacks are common. Not true. You have a better chance of dying from being struck by lightning, or even from a dog bite. (Yeah, seriously.) Second myth: Sharks will attack if they sense you have your period. While sharks have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to blood, there’s no evidence that shows you’re more likely to be attacked during this time.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is actually very uncommon if you're 18 to 39 years old and not obese. Basically, it happens when your body’s ability to cool itself is thwarted and body temps rise very high (into the 100s), very fast. It’s signaled by weakness, dizziness and lack of sweat. While the likelihood of having heatstroke is low, if you’re feeling ill, get into a cool room and drink liquids. Have someone monitor you, and if you don’t feel better soon, go to a doctor.

Air-Conditioning

We’ve all heard that one about how moving from the “natural” outdoor air to a building pumped with air-conditioning will make you sick. Not true -- it’s probably just your allergies, because moving from a clean-air environment to the outdoors may trigger allergy sensitivities (hello, sneezing). Bottom line: Don’t blame the AC for your sniffles, and buy some allergy medicine! Not a fan of the AC anyway? Check out these stylish fan options.

Curing a Jellyfish Sting

You know that Friends episode where Chandler pees on Monica to relieve her pain from a jellyfish sting? Turns out, he could’ve just used some vinegar. That’s right -- studies have shown that vinegar is your best bet for relieving the pain. Why the strong support for urine? Well, there’s some truth to the claim: Ammonia, another cure, is one component of urine. Depending on the individual, someone may have a good amount of it (spelling relief for the victim) or, you know, pretty much nada (“why the hell did you even PEE on me for?!”). What we’re saying is this: If you’re going to a beach where you might have a run-in with a jellyfish, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a small bottle of vinegar, thus saving you from an unwanted sting and an even more unwanted golden shower. You’re welcome.

Swimming on a Full Stomach

That old “wait one hour before eating” rule can be put to rest, as far as we’re concerned. While it’s true you may experience some discomfort if, say, you just ate an entire bag of Doritos before your dive (which we wouldn’t recommend), there’s no proof that swimming after eating has caused injury or death. So chow down and jump in -- we won’t tell.

Sunscreen

Here’s the gist: First, doubling up on sunscreen doesn’t mean the SPF number doubles (that is, SPF 15 applied twice does NOT equal SPF 30). Second, most individuals don’t need to go higher than 30, which blocks out 97 percent of UVB rays (the rays that cause sunburn), because there’s no evidence that a number past 30 really adds any more protection (so you can forgo the SPF 95). Third, you’re probably not applying enough. You need one ounce (the size of a shot glass) to cover your body, and an extra teaspoon of it for your face. And yes, even if your facial moisturizer claims to have SPF, you need to apply sunscreen to your face to protect it in the sun. Reapply at least every two hours, and more often if you’re swimming or being active. Got it? Now learn how to “fake” a tan.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito bites are not only annoying, they can be potentially dangerous, as mosquitoes can transmit diseases like West Nile virus (WNV) and malaria. WNV can cause mild to severe symptoms (sometimes resulting in death). In 2008, around 40 fatalities in the US were connected with WNV. Malaria caused more than 850,000 deaths the same year. Think your bug spray is working? It could be, but you may be misunderstanding it. The higher the DEET level in your spray (an active ingredient in insect repellents), the longer it lasts. Translation: The higher DEET number does NOT mean it repels more mosquitoes, but that it lasts longer in repelling. Because DEET is an insecticide, talk to your doctor if you have medical problems or conditions or take any topical medications that could interact with your spray. Side effects of DEET can include dizziness and nausea, among other symptoms.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is not contagious. We repeat: Poison ivy is not contagious. The actual rash, caused by a reaction to urushiol oil found in poison ivy, oak and sumac, can’t be spread through contact. The one kernel of truth to this myth? One poison ivy rash sufferer can spread it only IF there’s urushiol oil left from the original contact and the new victim reacts to it as well.

-- Samantha Leal