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Tips to prevent swim problems in the summertime

Swimming is one of the best summertime fitness sports. It works every major muscle group with very little stress and, whether you choose to swim laps, do pool aerobics or dance around wearing a buoyancy belt, the benefits to mind and body are wonderful.

And yet, there are a few risks to consider: swimmer’s ear, stinging eyes, athlete’s foot ... you get the picture. Here’s a look at some of these problems:

  • Swimmer’s ear. Now ‘ear this: Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial or fungal infection that occurs when water gets trapped in your ear. It’s not serious, but it’s not fun, either.

To avoid it, make sure you really shake the water loose from your ears when you leave the water. To do that, stand on one leg, tilt your ear toward the standing leg and hop up and down until you feel that your ear is clear and dry. Then switch legs. The corner of a soft towel can also dry out your ear, as can a hair dryer on low heat.
Earplugs can work well, and so can eardrops of rubbing alcohol or alcohol and vinegar. Most important: Do NOT stick anything down your ear canal to dry them.

  • Irritated eyes. Many pools are loaded with chemicals. Open water can also have little beasties that bother your eyes. The best answer is to swim with goggles. Make sure you pick a padded pair that fit comfortably.
  • Athlete’s foot. It’s not uncommon to have a fungus among us when we’re in a pool or locker room. When it infects your feet, it’s called athlete’s foot. When it infects your groin, it’s called jock itch.

To sidestep the problem, don’t walk barefoot around the pool or locker area. This virus thrives in a warm, moist environment, so always dry your feet completely when you’ve finished swimming.
If you do get athlete’s foot, you can usually get rid of it with a twice-daily application of an antifungal cream or powder.

Remember: All of the above are small problems easily dealt with. A much more serious problem is spinal cord injury. Did you know that about 2,000 people are crippled every year in diving accidents? Be smart. Listen up: Never dive into water headfirst unless you are absolutely, positively sure about the depth of the water.

Eating healthy and losing unwanted weight means filling up your plate and your life with good-for-you fruits and vegetables. Indeed, the most recent dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended that moderately active teens and adults eat five cups of fruits and vegetables every day.

Right. Sure. That’ll really catch on. Fat chance. Not happening.

It may not be a question of why you should eat so many fruits and veggies - everyone knows why - but how. How do you manage to get your five cups a day and still have time to brush your teeth and take your kid to the park? Here, for your digestion, are some practical tips from the Produce for Better Health Foundation:

  • Be prepared. When hunger strikes at home, be prepared to feed it. Keep prewashed, grab-'n-go fruits - such as peaches, pears, apples, plums, grapes, bananas and nectarines - nearby. Try new veggie options, such as presliced apples or baby carrots or celery packaged with a low-fat dip. Have these healthy snacks handy and you’ll be less tempted to reach for the M&Ms and taco chips.
  • Pack snacks. Always keep healthy snacks in your car, bag or briefcase for a snack on the go. Dried fruit, including blueberries, cherries, cranberries and mangoes, and fruit-filled trail mixes are easy ideas for the road warrior.

Did you know that prunes had a makeover and are now called dried plums, available in a variety of flavors?

  • Replace one junk food a day with a fruit or vegetable. Small changes make big results. Do this little exercise every day, and slowly over time, you will get rid of some bad habits and develop some newer, healthier ones.
  • Add veggies to your favorite recipes. Have veggies at the ready, in your fridge, and simply add them to the dishes you already prepare. Having pasta? Using bottled sauce? Why not mix in some chopped red or green peppers or sliced mushrooms?

Be creative. Add shredded carrots and zucchini to muffin mixes, diced onions and tomatoes to omelets or top a homemade pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, olives and low-fat cheese. Make it a game and you’ll be the winner every time.

  • Start with a salad. This is another great habit to get into. Buy bags of dark, leafy greens or make up your own bags, and mix the greens with items you might not normally think to add, mandarin oranges, thinly sliced pears, dried red cherries and a handful of nuts.

Eating a great salad before a meal moves you closer to your five-cup-a-day goal and can help you lose weight, too.
For more tips and tools for eating more fruits and veggies plus recipes, visit www.5aday.org.

Dear Marilynn: My sister Sandi and I have been active our entire lives and found that swimming, biking, running, etc., keep us sane and healthy. Most recently, our beloved mother died almost eight months ago and without pushing ourselves to exercise no matter how depressed we were, I honestly doubt we would have made it this far. Thanks.

  • R.P.

Dear R.P.: Thank you. Stories like yours inspire all of us. Keep moving, stay active and the benefits of regular exercise will lift you higher and higher