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Ahhh summer. Al fresco dining, flirty summer dresses and lazy, long evenings — there are so many reasons we look forward to the season. But while it’s time for fun and relaxation, it also brings a slew of other problems we need to deal with. Because who are we kidding, we take a lot of the perks for granted. Here are five warm-weather habits you might want to reconsider:

1. Wearing flip flops

Summer’s flimsiest footwear may invoke a sense of freedom — after all, who wears flip flops to board meetings? — but what they’re doing to your feet is anything but liberating. Take these warnings from Topical BioMedics [via The Toronto Star]: flip flops lead to injury by jarring joints and bones, and they become tripping hazards by causing wearers to over-grip with their toes. They exacerbate existing injuries like bunions and hammertoes, and they’re perfect breeding grounds for fungus and bacteria. Yikes!

If you really want to keep your feet cool and show off that pedicure, choose a structured, well-made sandal instead.

2. Drinking from plastic water bottles

Staying hydrated in hot weather is key to staying healthy, but there are good and bad ways to do it. Good: drinking cool tap or filtered water in a reusable glass, metal or ceramic vessel. Bad: frequently drinking from plastic vessels.

Contrary to those email rumours you got from your worried aunt, studies don’t link consumption of sun-heated water to cancer, so if you’re dying of thirst and you want to crack open that hot bottle sitting in your car, go for it. But consider this: more recent studies have found bisphenol A (BPA) even in plastic bottles that are marked BPA-free. If you want to avoid BPA’s estrogen-mimicking effects, the most cautious route is to stay away from plastic vessels altogether. Not only that, but in Canada, municipal water regulations are far more stringent than those applied to bottled water manufacturers, so if you’re a stickler for purity, stick with tap — it’s cheaper, better regulated and more environmentally-friendly to boot.

3. Dousing yourself in bug spray

Mosquitoes are annoying, we get it. But while DEET-based repellants may be the most effective prevention against skeeters, no-see-ums and other itty-bitty biters, liberally spraying them comes with dangers. According to the US National Library of Medicine’s MedLine Plus, long-term use of highly concentrated DEET products (50 per cent or more) is associated with insomnia and mood changes, while accidentally ingesting DEET , which is easy to do when spraying, can cause nausea and vomiting. Over-exposure can even lead to seizures in small children. Always follow insect repellant instructions to a T and familiarize yourself with Health Canada’s recommendations for bite prevention, which includes wearing long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing.

4. Boozing in the heat

Alcohol and heat — whether it comes from a hot tub or a hot sun — can be a dangerous mix, causing dehydration and even increasing the risk of skin cancer. But since Canadians spend half the year dreaming of patio season, we’re not suggesting you swear off those patio (or deck, or dockside) drinks just yet. But do pace yourself: drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage, snack frequently to maintain even blood sugar and pay attention to your body’s cues. Dry lips, dizziness, dark urine, headache and extreme fatigue are all signs you’ve had too much. Keep dehydration at bay by setting a limit before you start — one or two drinks at a reasonable pace alternated with water should be fine. Avoid alcohol altogether if you plan a dip in the hot tub.

5. Barbecuing

There’s nothing like a barbecued burger to bring home the flavours of summer. But unless you’re grilling carefully, that burger (or hot dog or chicken breast) can bring home unwanted guests, too, like E. coli and salmonella. To avoid food borne illnesses, follow the same hygiene routines you would for indoor cooking and wash your hands frequently. And remember: a thermometer beats eyeballs for safely gauging doneness, and a marinade or rub can provide good protection against char-borne carcinogens. See Health Canada for meat-specific grilling temperatures and other barbecue safety tips.

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