Medical Misconception: Poison Ivy

Each month we set the facts straight regarding a popular health and wellness myth.

This month’s misconception: How poison ivy is spread

For many of us, summer finds us enjoying the outdoors more. Maybe you went hiking in the woods or did some yard work, and a few hours or days later, you have an itchy rash and blisters. It looks like you’ve had a brush with poison ivy.

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Medical Misconception: Sun & Tanning Myths

Each month, we set the facts straight regarding common health and wellness myths.

This month’s misconception: Sun & Tanning Myths

To take advantage of the summer sunshine, many of us spend time outside whether on vacation or in our backyards. While “fun in the sun” is part of the season, two of the biggest summertime medical misconceptions have to do with sun exposure – skipping sun protection on a cloudy day and not wearing sunscreen depending on how well you tan.

On a cloudy or overcast day, many are tempted to skip the sunscreen — after all, the sun isn’t shining, so it can’t do any damage, right?

That’s not the case. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the ones that can damage your skin; being overexposed to them can put you at a great risk of skin damage and cancer. Unfortunately, those rays are still present even when it’s a cloudy day, according to the American Cancer Society. Some clouds might block UV rays one day, but other clouds might reflect and increase the UV rays another. To make sure you are protected no matter what, it’s imperative that you protect your skin.

Some individuals’ don’t burn when exposed to the sun — do they have to wear sunscreen, too?

Yes. Anyone’s skin is vulnerable to UV ray damage, even if he or she doesn’t sunburn, according to the American Cancer Society. Bottom line: ultraviolet exposure can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.

Protect Yourself

You can do a number of things to protect your skin from the sun:

  • First, don’t go out in the sun when its rays are strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The American Cancer Society recommends the shadow test as a quick way to determine the strength of the sun: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Wear clothing to cover your skin from ultraviolet rays. Remember, though, if you’re able to see through the clothing UV rays can pass through it, too.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that provide UV protection.
  • Wear sunscreen. Follow the label directions and reapply accordingly. About one ounce of sunscreen should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of an adult. Learn about SPF in sunscreen

By taking some precautions, you can enjoy outdoor time in cloudy or sunny summer weather.

Do base tans prevent sunburn? Read more tanning myths.

Medical Misconception: Advance Directives

Each month, a health care professional will weigh in on a health and wellness myth.

This month’s misconception: Advance Directives   

Advance directives are an important, but often misunderstood, tool in health care. This document specifies what actions should be taken in the event that you are no longer able to make health care decisions due to illness or incapacity, and it identifies a person of your choosing to make such decisions on your behalf.

Myth: I’m healthy so I don’t need an advance directive.

Anyone age 18 or older should have an advance directive, whether they are healthy or facing a chronic illness, says palliative care nurse Laurie Luellen, R.N. “We never know what tomorrow is going to bring,” she says. “If something happens and someone is not able to make their own decisions, it makes it easier for the family to know what to do.”

Myth: An advance directive needs to be completed by a lawyer.

Two witnesses are all that is needed in order to fill out an advance directive. These witnesses must be age 18 or older, and neither can be the person you’ve chosen as your medical advocate. One important note: these witnesses don’t need to read your advance directive or know what you’ve outlined in terms of your health care decisions. They are there to simply witness that you signed the document, Luellen says.

Once the advance directive is completed, Luellen recommends giving a copy to your medical decision maker and to your local hospital, even if you’ve never been a patient there. The hospital staff will scan and save your advance directive so that it is always on file in case of an emergency.

Myth: If you have an advance directive, medical staff won’t put the full effort in to saving your life.

A lot of people think this is the case, but it is simply untrue. Hospital staff will make every effort to fulfill the wishes you have outlined in your advance directive. In addition to the advance directive identifying a medical advocate, the document also allows for individuals to outline the type of care they would want if they have a terminal condition, an end-stage condition or if he or she is in a persistent vegetative state.