The winds flowing over our peninsula have already reversed direction, and the Indian Met Department has declared that we can expect moderately higher than normal (109%) rains this monsoon. There are many things to be careful of: rise in viral and bacterial infections, especially of the stomach; mosquitoes breeding faster; pink eye being common during the rains; higher rates of infection in fruits and vegetables. But some caution about monsoon is often misplaced, and we sometimes worry about things that are incorrect but have been absorbed into our common psyche as “common sense”. It is better to be safe than sorry, but some of the things we think are taboo during monsoon are harmless, or even beneficial. Other myths are actively harmful. Here are five facts about monsoon that you really need to be aware of.
Fact: Outdoor exercise is absolutely fine, even great
People think you cannot go run, even when properly protected, during the rains. Some people even go to the extent of saying that one should not even step outside during the rains. There are actually several studies that show that there is no real downside to working out in the rain. With the right waterproof gear, you can do your usual number of laps without giving a thought to any diseases that it might bring. Rain and fever, even rain and cold, have no correlation. High time we retire this much debunked “fact” now.
These studies found that your performance may be slightly compromised, but you will feel cleaner and even burn more energy. Be careful of your footwear choice though: wear truly waterproof shoes so you don’t have blistered feet at the end of your workout. If the rain is affecting visibility, especially if you walk or run in places with high traffic, wear some high visibility gear: it’s usually neon and lights up! What’s to not love?
Fact: Green leafy vegetables during the rains are not ok
You run a high risk of stomach infections from leafy vegetables this season. Even Popeye probably goes hungry during the rains. Even cabbage is home to a lot of bacteria. These vegetables are a lot more grimy and so they can home a larger number of the infection-causing bacteria and viruses.
You’re better eat some rain-hardy vegetables like the ones from the friendly, but sadly much hated, gourd family. Gourds are great for you. They just happen to have unfortunate names: who’d not be at least somewhat freaked out by something called the ‘snake gourd’. It, like many other gourds, is found to be great for improving glucose tolerance and so helps in controlling Type II Diabetes and the precursor Insulin Resistance.
Fact: You CANNOT skip sunscreen during monsoon
It’s might not be hot. There might even be a cloud cover, even may be a very dense one. But clouds don’t provide a lot of protection. They do block most of the UVB (B for Burning) rays, but they do nothing about the longer UVA (A for Ageing) rays. It’s the UVA rays that speed up ageing, and cause skin cancer. Just wear your sunscreen like you do during the summers. It’s a great habit to have, and the benefits that you get: younger skin, resistance to cancer, no unwanted tans. Also wear your UV protective sunglasses as well: eyes absorb 90% of the UV rays that fall on them, and this causes a lot of damage to the cornea. Corneal damage due to the sun is one of the leading causes of cataracts and macular degeneration. You may get some odd looks from people, but they’re worth it.
If you don’t wear sunscreen yet, you should start as soon as possible. The benefits far outweigh the slight inconvenience it causes. Sunscreen, at least SPF 50, PA+++, at all times. Again (you can’t be fanatic enough about it), sunscreen all the time, no matter what the weather.
Fact: Vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds
Vitamin C is a great micronutrient. It’s probably our second most favourite micronutrient (after Vitamin B12). It’ll stop you getting scurvy, which is great because scurvy is the worst. Yes, colds are more common during the rains. But vitamin C does not prevent colds. (And colds are not caused by rains. The various viruses that cause Common Cold just proliferate better in lower temperatures. Be careful about what you eat and drink can help.)
Vitamin C can shorten the duration and severity of colds, but if you’re destined to get one, you’ll get one. After you get the cold (which we hope you don’t), take about 100mg daily, and you will see the symptoms reduce. Better, also eat foods rich in Vitamin C. Fun fact: the humble cauliflower has more vitamin C than an orange.
Fact: Ice-cream is perfectly fine
We kept the best one for last. Ice cream (sanitarily prepared) does not give you Common Cold or cough. Only viruses can do it. So splurge your calories on them once in a while. It’s no big deal. But remember, if you have tooth sensitivity, cold weather will exacerbate it. So be careful, but don’t let rains keep you away from frozen desserts.
So wear that sunscreen, eat that ice-cream, and go run in the rains!