Tip/Thought of the Day

The Truth Behind 13 Medical Myths

Growing up, well-meaning people probably tried to keep you safe by reminding you that you should bundle up in the cold, so you don’t get sick. Or, a pesky sibling might have warned that if you try to hold a sneeze from escaping, that your head would explode (wow!). Ever hear somebody say that when babies sneeze, it is a sign they are cold? Today we shed some light on 13 medical myths that, at the very least, now give us a chuckle:

1. Being in cold temperatures makes you sick: Much to the contrary of what every loving grandmother has suggested, being out in cold temperature does not make us more likely to get sick. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine done in 1968 showed that after subjects were exposed to the cold virus, the surrounding temperature did not impact whether they actually contracted a cold. Science dictates: you develop a cold or flu from coming into direct contact with the virus- not as a result of the temperature you are in.

Studies also show that if you go out into cold weather when you are sick, the temperature will not cause your symptoms to worsen. But resting up in bed, rather than over-exerting yourself, is a sure-fire way to help you get better. Most researchers also agree that being cold — whether due to wet hair or a lack of a jacket — doesn’t contribute to contracting the common cold.

Still, there is evidence that the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses (both cause colds) thrive at colder temperatures, and that the flu may spread most effectively under cold, dry conditions. To avoid getting sick at any temperature, here are a few tips that are tried-and-true.

2. Chicken soup can help you recover from a cold: My ancestors would be vindicated this time! Chicken soup does appears to help fight colds, according to several studies. In addition to the love, affection and warmth it provides, chicken soup does appear to help fight colds, according to several studies. It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up. In addition, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease symptoms.

3. If you don’t let a sneeze escape, you’ll cause injury: Most of us did not escape an older sibling saying if we tried to hold a sneeze, our head would explode. While the result won’t be so dramatic, it isn’t a good idea to try and stifle a sneeze for any reason, according to University of Arkansas audiologist, Dr. Aliison Catlett Woodall.

“Prior to a sneeze, a significant amount of air pressure builds in the lungs in preparation of being forced through the nasal cavity to clear irritants out of the nasal passages,” Dr. Woodall says. “If the sneeze is held, this pressurized air is forced back into the middle ear cavity.”

While not likely, the result can be that the pressure from a withheld sneeze causes middle and inner ear damage, including a ruptured ear drum, ruptured eye vessels, or even ruptured or weakened blood vessels in the brain. So, just let the sneeze out.

4. When babies sneeze, it means they are cold: In the blur of having a new baby, trying to figure out if they are hot or cold can be tricky. Many people suggest that if babies are sneezing, it is an indication that they need an extra layer. But, when babies sneeze, it is just how they clear their nasal passage. After all- they can’t grab for a tissue like we can. Often, little baby noses get clogged up with dust and particles, just as adults experience, or their nostrils become slightly compressed when nursing. Sneezing is just how they get things back to normal.

5. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis: The sound you hear when cracking your knuckles is not an indication of harm being caused to your joints. And, the act of “cracking your knuckles,” will not cause arthritis. The noise you hear when cracking your knuckles is caused by gases passing through the joint when it is moved as a result of the “cracking” motion. It can also be caused by tendons and tissues moving when adjustments to joint alignment occurs. But, if you are experience pain when “cracking” your joints, that could be a sign of loose cartilage or injured ligaments, so talk to your provider if you experience this.

6. If you cross your eyes, they’ll get stuck like that forever:  You’ll get a few laughs out of it, but crossing your eyes will not cause permanent damage to your eyes. According to the Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute, “Our eyes naturally come together when we look at something closely, so when you purposefully cross your eyes you are just exaggerating your eyes natural response.”

7. If you swallow gum, it stays in your stomach for 7 years: Our bodies are amazing, and our stomachs can work through pretty much anything, including gum. According to research done at Ohio State University, it is true that our bodies might not be able to digest synthetic portions of gum, but, “it doesn’t stay in the stomach for an extended period of time because the stomach periodically empties into the small intestine.  The gum then moves through the small intestine into the colon and is eventually passed in the stool.”

8. Is there a “five-second rule”?: Many studies have proved this to be a myth- meaning the minute you drop your food on a germy surface, it is contaminated. In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, microbiologists subjected the five-second rule to some rigorous scientific tests. Anything that fell on the contaminated surface itself became contaminated, no matter how long it was left there. So what you are dropping and where you are dropping it, should be considered just as much, if not more than, how long your dropped item has lingered on the floor.

9. Sitting on a toilet transmits infections: Do you ever make a seat of toilet paper on top of the toilet seat? Or maybe hover over, hoping not to get infected by the germs, worrying you’ll get sick? Bacteria possibly lingering on the seat is not easily transmitted by the skin. Bacteria tend to thrive in moist places, which eliminates the porcelain throne. As disturbing as it may be, sitting down will not hurt you. However, if you were to use the restroom without washing your hands, you may be at risk of transmitting the bacteria. When you’re all done with your business, the most important thing to remember is: wash your hands.

10. You only use 10% of your brain: The brain doesn’t have any dormant areas. The 10% myth has undoubtedly motivated many people to strive for greater creativity and productivity in their lives- hardly a bad thing. The comfort, encouragement and hope that it has engendered helps explain the myth’s longevity. But, like so many uplifting myths that are too good to be true, the truth of the matter seems to lie in that people might want to believe they haven’t tapped into their full potential.

11. You should wait an hour after eating to go swimming: The common belief that the blood going to your digestive tract after eating steals the blood needed to keep your arms and legs pumping during swimming is unfounded. The body does supply extra blood to aid in digestion, but not enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles from properly functioning. Your biggest danger related to eating and swimming is probably a minor cramp.

12. Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker: The thicker part of the hair gets exposed once shaved, making it seem like each individual shaft is taking up more space. The hair feels stiff as it is short and cut straight across, but will feel softer as it grows. The hair appears darker as the hair dots are now seen directly against the normal skin colour.

13. Chocolate & fried foods give you acne: Hormones are regarded as the prime reasons behind sebaceous glands producing excess sebum. Stress and heredity may also be factors, but chocolate bars and fried foods aren’t one. So no matter what Mom says, show her the facts next time she moves the chocolates out of reach.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Double check the advice you were taught as a kid, and see if it’s substantiated by science.

dsc_0323    –Dr. Courtney












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