In honor of Mothers Day…week…. we thought we’d debunk some of the most common health advice many of us grew up with. Sorry mom. On some things you were right on, but others…not so much. Many of us at AFC Urgent Care West Hartford were subject to the majority of the tips below, and I’ll bet you were as well. Mother thought she knew best when you were growing up, but even the most informed and well-meaning mothers sometimes gave us advice that we later discovered wasn’t quite right. Read on to find out which tips are fact and which ones were well intended, but perhaps not quite accurate, (aka fiction):
11 of Mom’s Top Health Tips… Debunked!
1. “Don’t go out with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold!”
Fact or Fiction: Fiction! Catching a cold has nothing to do with the weather outside, and everything to do with the bacteria you’re exposed to. Many people confuse correlation with causation, and in this instance, moms everywhere were confusing the fact that colds become more common during the winter with a causal relationship! But colds and other illnesses are easier to catch in the winter because people tend to spend more time inside, hanging out around other people’s bacteria. You can rest assured that the only thing you’ll catch when you go out with wet hair is a headache and a bad hair day!
2. “Vitamin C helps prevent colds”
Fact or Fiction: Fiction. Yes, you need vitamin C (scurvy, anyone?). However, vitamin C will not prevent or cure a cold. Dozens of studies have found that taking vitamin C doesn’t do anything to prevent the duration or frequency of the colds you’ll inevitably get. Hand washing, on the other hand, will go a long way toward keeping you healthy.
3. “If your mucus is green you need antibiotics”
Fact or Fiction: A bit of both. Yes, you’re sick when you have green mucus. That much is true. But antibiotics aren’t necessarily the cure. If your infection is viral, antibiotics are useless (although if it’s bacterial, the antibiotics could help — ask your doctor).
Let’s talk about milk. Much has changed in the way of milk advice over the past 50 years. After all, the words lactose intolerant were barely uttered back in the day. First, the biggie, the one that most American mothers would have been fired for had they not harped on:
4. “Drink your milk. It builds strong bones!”
Fact or Fiction: We’re not quite sure yet. Physicians generally agree that cow’s milk is healthy for children, although there is growing controversy about that as well because of the increasing numbers of lactose intolerance, but they caution that it should never be a meal replacement, even for infants. Some studies have also found that too much cow’s milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia and malnutrition in children. This is because too much milk can cause microscopic tears in the digestive tract, leading to blood loss. So, while milk provides a big calcium boost that’s important for building strong bones, be careful not to consume more than the daily recommended amount.
And this one. Mine used it all the time:
5. “Drink a glass of milk at night. It will make you drowsy”
Fact or Fiction: Total Fiction. Sorry moms, warm milk won’t make you drowsy. Sure, there are trace amounts of tryptophan in milk (the same sleepy stuff found in turkey), but way too little to make a difference. There’s actually more tryptophan in eggs and cheese than milk, but you don’t fall asleep over your breakfast sandwich, do you? There is something to be said about the power of suggestion however.
6. “Sitting too close to the TV will damage your eyes!”
Fact or Fiction: Somewhere in between. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has agreed that sitting too close to a TV will not damage your eyes. This was the case in TV sets made before the 1950s, which released tiny amounts of radiation, and actually had a small potential to damage your eyes if you were too close to them. TVs today are made with shields that prevent this radiation from being released. This comes with a caveat, though; sitting too close as you grow older can cause eyestrain. Children are better able to focus on things close to their faces when they’re younger, but as they mature, their eyes become more susceptible to strain after long periods of looking at close objects. We’ll have better statistics on the possible damage to kids eyes caused by watching tablets, computers and smart phones in a few years, but for now we’re sticking to classic moms myths.
7. “If you keep making that face, a strong wind will come by and freeze it!”
Fact or Fiction: Sort of fact! Granted, mom was probably being a little overdramatic. She said this in an effort to get you to stop making crazy faces in front of company. But at the end of the day it does, actually, have a grain of truth. The faces we make most often start to become etched into our features in the form of wrinkles. It’s a normal, if unpleasant, side effect of aging. Ladies, you’ve heard of the “eleven’s”? Those little lines that form at the bridge of your nose between your eyebrows? They form, over time, from too much worry and stress. So the moral of the story here is to take some time to de-stress, unwind and consciously relax that furrowed brow.
8. “Don’t swallow that gum – it will stay in your stomach for seven years!”
Fact or Fiction: Fiction! And where did the 7 year thing come from anyway? When it came time for us to be allowed to chew gum, mother only did so with the strict knowledge that swallowing that gum would hurt our little tummies for years to come. Then came the day when you simply forgot about the Juicy Juice that you were chomping down on one minute and before you know it, down the hatch it went.
The fact is, accidentally swallowing gum every once and awhile is not going to turn your stomach into Bubble-Yum. Gum is made up of two major components, sugar and a type of plastic. Your body breaks down the sugars and the plastic gum ends up in your stool. There’s really no way gum can “get stuck” inside your belly.
9. “If you swallow a watermelon seed, it will grow inside your stomach!”
Fact or Fiction: Fiction, although pregnant women in their last trimester might think they accidentally swallowed one. Kids love watermelon, meticulously picking out the seeds as they eat the favorite summertime treat. Everyone remembers the time that one slipped through – and what did we do? We ran to mom to tell her what happened, scared of the watermelon that would eventually grow inside of us.
Luckily, mother’s warning was merely a way for us to make sure we didn’t choke on any of the seeds, as little ones tend to do from time to time. Other small complications could arise from swallowing seeds, such as one being lodged in the appendix or damaging an intestine, but these would just be rare occasions. One note of caution though: Be sure you never swallow a fir seed!
10. “Stop cracking your knuckles…it will give you arthritis!”
Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction! For some odd reason, kids love cracking their knuckles. Whether it’s the sound of the crack or the feeling it makes, we feel relieved when one cracks a knuckle. After getting all that finger stress out, Mom smacked you upside the head, reminding you of the extreme arthritis you’d get because of all that cracking.
A study of 300 people who had bad habits of cracking their knuckles did not find any evidence that doing so leads to arthritis. Some of these individuals did lose strength in their hands and also had soft tissue damage. The “cracking” noise you hear when you crack a knuckle is merely a release of gases contained in joint fluids. Arthritis is usually a symptom that you feel later in life and is usually inherited from your parents. Mom was half-right though: Cracking your knuckles is not particularly good for you.
Last but not least, the age old:
11. “If you play with it too much it will fall off!”
Fact or Fiction: I think we all know the answer to this one. Out of all the lies that mom mentioned to us over the years, perhaps none was taken more seriously by adolescent boys then the possibility of it it “falling off”. How dare mother get involved in the first place – she didn’t have one, so how could she know for sure? Then the epiphany kicked in – of course, that’s why she didn’t have one! She knows because it happened to her! Or….?
In any case, the most frightening mom myth turned out to be the biggest lie of them all. Mom nervously thought she had to do something about the situation – her little boy was finally growing up to be man, something every mother has to deal with at some point. However, health professionals will tell you that no matter how much you “play” with it, it’s never going to fall off! Good news for many!
Mom gave us a lot of advice in the process of raising us, and while it might not have all been perfect, it was given with an abundance of love and good intentions. So, thank your mom for trying, take some time to talk to her about the best health advice she gave you, and let her down easy on her debunked health tips !
Do you have any golden nuggets given to you by mom that you need checked out by a professional? Contact us here and we’d be happy to have one of our urgent care providers straighten it out for you once and for all.