Last updated: Jul 10, 2008
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Prepare for the rays
Burn easily? Apply sunscreen several days before your first day of heavy sun exposure. “The sunblock collects in the skin and has a collective protective effect, even if you shower daily,” says New York City dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD. Choose a product containing antioxidants, which diminish free radical damage, and reapply it a half-hour before hitting the water. Try Coppertones ultraGUARD Continuous Spray SPF 70+ ($11; drugstores).


Protect your eyes
Contact lenses and swimming dont mix. Tiny organisms found in both freshwater and salt­water can get trapped between your eyes and your lenses, experts say. And the chemical stew in a chlorinated pool can lead to irritation or even corneal burns, says Cynthia Chiu, MD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco. To protect your peepers, strap a pair of goggles over your contacts or invest in prescription goggles.

Dry off pronto
Sitting around in a wet suit sets you up for a yeast or other kind of infection. “Yeast loves damp, dark, and hot places.” says Michele Curtis, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas–Houston Medical School. Slip out of your suit and into dry clothing as soon as youre done swimming. Going in and out of the water? Make sure your suit is the quick-drying kind made of spandex (most new ones are) and towel off briskly; you want to be moisture-free within 10 to 15 minutes.

Keep your feet sweet
Bare feet can take a beating from rough terrain or water creatures at the beach or lake. Experts recommend protecting them with water shoes that drain and dry quickly and that completely cover the tops of your feet. Our pick: the Teva Arenal ($75; www.teva.com). Pool-goers, slip on sandals or flip-flops for visits to changing areas and restrooms.

Clear your ears
Swimmer's ear, an infection marked by swelling and pain, can result from water trapped inside your ears. To avoid it, pop in earplugs before you swim or dry out your ears quickly. Drops, such as Swim-EAR ear-drying aid ($5; drugstores), use alcohol to absorb and dry out any lingering water. You can make your own drops, too: Mix one part white vinegar and one part alcohol; place a few drops in your ear, and then let them drain.