5 summer habits you should stop; 3 others that aren't so bad
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Forgetting to wear sunglasses on a bright day: Bad for you! While skin is the part of the body most sensitive to ultraviolet rays, eyes rank second.
"Making a habit of going outside for a long period of time without sunglasses can lead to a whole host of problems," says Ivan Schwab, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Among the risks: Photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), cancer of the eye or eyelid, pinguecula (small, benign yellow growths on the eye's surface), and cataracts.
The good news is that a pair of sunglasses doesn't need to be pricey to block rays well. "As long as they offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection — a common feature — you should be all set," says Dr. Schwab.
Drink water directly from a garden hose: Bad for you!Taking a swig from a hose on a hot day sounds refreshing, but what's lurking inside could be dangerous.
According to Jeff Gearhart from the Ecology Center, bacteria can build up in the hose and vinyl hoses are not regulated for lead, BPAs, or other potentially hazardous additives that can leach into the water.
Driving while wearing flip-flops: Bad for you!Save these summer staples for the beach: You're putting yourself at risk every time you hit the gas or brakes.
"Because they have an open heel, it's easy for a flip-flop to slip off your foot and wedge under one of your pedals," says Sunni Brown, a spokesperson for the Virginia DMV. Brown admits that accidents caused by flip-flops are rare, but they do happen.
If you wear flip-flops a lot, stash an extra pair of sneakers, flats, or even sandals that strap securely to your feet in the car, and put them on before you drive off.
Swallowing pool water: Bad for you!Even some of the most well-maintained pools can have small bits of fecal matter, which carry bacteria, floating in them.
While chlorine helps, says Michele Hlavsa, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes a few minutes to kill germs like E. coli and norovirus, and up to 10 days to kill cryptosporidium, a parasite that can cause severe diarrhea. These germs can be found in any pool —public or private — and swallowing them could make you sick.
Leaving the air conditioner on all day: Bad for you!
Blasting the air conditioner nonstop is a huge waste of energy, says Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
As a rule of thumb, turn your A/C off or leave it on a higher temp if you'll be out for more than an hour, and keep it at a steady 72 degrees when you're home.
Eating an ice pop with freezer burn: Not so bad!
You don't need to toss that Popsicle just because it's coated with ice. Freezer burn happens when ice pops, ice cream, or any other frozen food undergoes multiple spikes in temperature that make it melt slightly, then refreeze, creating large ice crystals.
"You won't get that wonderful eating experience, but freezer burn won't make you sick," says Bruce Tharp, Ph.D., a dairy scientist and frozen desserts consultant. So enjoy — and in the future, don't let those ice pops linger in the freezer.
Putting meat on a grill without rinsing it: Not so bad!
Dousing chicken or beef in water before a BBQ may seem like a good way to remove bacteria and sliminess, but it actually ups your chances of spreading bacteria around the kitchen.
"No matter how careful you are when you wash meat, you end up sloshing its juices on the counter and sink, which leads to cross-contamination," says Douglas Powell, Ph.D., a former professor of food safety at Kansas State University.
The safest method is to put the meat on the grill straight from the package (or the plate you prep it on). Then, to rid it of bacteria like salmonella, cook it thoroughly.
Throwing away the moldy berries in a carton and eating the other ones: Not so bad!
"Ingesting it could give you a stomachache, so throw away moldy berries, no question," says Ruth Frechman, R.D.N., a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Toss any berries touching the moldy ones, and others that feel mushy. "But if the rest look OK, I'd wash and eat them," says Frechman. To avoid having to trash fruit, open the carton while you're in the grocery store to check for mold. Then once you're home, don't rinse the berries until you're ready to eat them, since dry produce tends to last longer.