Dispelling Health Myths

Reviewed Aug 10, 2017

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Summary

  • Cure-alls
  • Causes of illness
  • Signs and portents

Did your grandmother tell you not to eat when you had a fever? Did Mom say you’d catch a cold if you went outside with wet hair? Almost everyone has heard an “old wives’ tale.”

Old wives’ tales have produced a few important medical advances. The smallpox vaccine, for example, was discovered after a doctor decided to investigate the old wives’ tale that people with cowpox could not catch smallpox.

But most old wives’ tales do not work as well as treatments developed using medical science. And perhaps of more concern, folk remedies do not undergo the stringent tests applied to mainstream medical practices. Few records exist documenting the outcomes of the treatments prescribed in old wives’ tales—and people who use those remedies often ignore their possible dangers. Many old wives’ tales of cure-alls, causes of illness, and signs and portents are simply myths. Here’s the truth about some of the more commonly heard tales.

Cure-alls

“Feed a cold, starve a fever.” This tale is a myth. If you have a cold or fever, eat nutritious foods when you feel hungry. You need fluids, rest, and nutrients. Not even antibiotics can help cure the common cold. The same logic applies to the old advice to “sweat out a cold.”

“Vitamin C prevents colds.” Although some studies have been done on the value of vitamin C as a cold remedy, not all reports conclude that the popular supplement can prevent colds. And “megadoses” of vitamin C may do more harm than good.

“Put butter or ice on a burn.” Neither can cure a burn, and ice may cause frostbite. Use cold water to soothe the pain instead.

“Children can never drink too much fruit juice.” Some reports state that children who drink large amounts of juice may be more prone to obesity, tooth decay, diarrhea, and other problems. Moderation is the key.  

Causes of illness

“You’ll catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair.” Chills don’t cause colds, viruses do.

“Children are more likely to catch infections in doctors’ waiting rooms.” Experts say that children are no more likely to catch infections waiting at a doctor’s office than at home or school.

“Drinking milk when you have a cold increases mucus production.” An Australian study found that milk does not increase congestion or secretion.

“Eating yeast products can increase your chances of contracting a yeast infection. Eating yogurt can cure one.” According to experts, studies have shown that diet does not affect yeast infection or treatment.

Signs and portents

“You can determine the gender of the baby by the way you are carrying.” Ultrasound and amniocentesis are the only proven methods to learn the sex of a baby in the womb.

You’ve probably heard many other old wives’ tales. Although they may not be true, don’t necessarily believe all of the “latest” medical information posted on the Internet or in advertisements. Consult a health care provider for medical advice and to ask about the validity of any “old wives’ tale” you’re tempted to try. 

By Kristen Knight
Source: Aurora Advanced Healthcare, www.ah.com; American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org; BabyCenter, www.babycenter.com; Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, www.ext.colostate.edu; Readers' Digest Canada, www.readersdigest.ca; Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein. Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Summary

  • Cure-alls
  • Causes of illness
  • Signs and portents

Did your grandmother tell you not to eat when you had a fever? Did Mom say you’d catch a cold if you went outside with wet hair? Almost everyone has heard an “old wives’ tale.”

Old wives’ tales have produced a few important medical advances. The smallpox vaccine, for example, was discovered after a doctor decided to investigate the old wives’ tale that people with cowpox could not catch smallpox.

But most old wives’ tales do not work as well as treatments developed using medical science. And perhaps of more concern, folk remedies do not undergo the stringent tests applied to mainstream medical practices. Few records exist documenting the outcomes of the treatments prescribed in old wives’ tales—and people who use those remedies often ignore their possible dangers. Many old wives’ tales of cure-alls, causes of illness, and signs and portents are simply myths. Here’s the truth about some of the more commonly heard tales.

Cure-alls

“Feed a cold, starve a fever.” This tale is a myth. If you have a cold or fever, eat nutritious foods when you feel hungry. You need fluids, rest, and nutrients. Not even antibiotics can help cure the common cold. The same logic applies to the old advice to “sweat out a cold.”

“Vitamin C prevents colds.” Although some studies have been done on the value of vitamin C as a cold remedy, not all reports conclude that the popular supplement can prevent colds. And “megadoses” of vitamin C may do more harm than good.

“Put butter or ice on a burn.” Neither can cure a burn, and ice may cause frostbite. Use cold water to soothe the pain instead.

“Children can never drink too much fruit juice.” Some reports state that children who drink large amounts of juice may be more prone to obesity, tooth decay, diarrhea, and other problems. Moderation is the key.  

Causes of illness

“You’ll catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair.” Chills don’t cause colds, viruses do.

“Children are more likely to catch infections in doctors’ waiting rooms.” Experts say that children are no more likely to catch infections waiting at a doctor’s office than at home or school.

“Drinking milk when you have a cold increases mucus production.” An Australian study found that milk does not increase congestion or secretion.

“Eating yeast products can increase your chances of contracting a yeast infection. Eating yogurt can cure one.” According to experts, studies have shown that diet does not affect yeast infection or treatment.

Signs and portents

“You can determine the gender of the baby by the way you are carrying.” Ultrasound and amniocentesis are the only proven methods to learn the sex of a baby in the womb.

You’ve probably heard many other old wives’ tales. Although they may not be true, don’t necessarily believe all of the “latest” medical information posted on the Internet or in advertisements. Consult a health care provider for medical advice and to ask about the validity of any “old wives’ tale” you’re tempted to try. 

By Kristen Knight
Source: Aurora Advanced Healthcare, www.ah.com; American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org; BabyCenter, www.babycenter.com; Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, www.ext.colostate.edu; Readers' Digest Canada, www.readersdigest.ca; Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein. Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Summary

  • Cure-alls
  • Causes of illness
  • Signs and portents

Did your grandmother tell you not to eat when you had a fever? Did Mom say you’d catch a cold if you went outside with wet hair? Almost everyone has heard an “old wives’ tale.”

Old wives’ tales have produced a few important medical advances. The smallpox vaccine, for example, was discovered after a doctor decided to investigate the old wives’ tale that people with cowpox could not catch smallpox.

But most old wives’ tales do not work as well as treatments developed using medical science. And perhaps of more concern, folk remedies do not undergo the stringent tests applied to mainstream medical practices. Few records exist documenting the outcomes of the treatments prescribed in old wives’ tales—and people who use those remedies often ignore their possible dangers. Many old wives’ tales of cure-alls, causes of illness, and signs and portents are simply myths. Here’s the truth about some of the more commonly heard tales.

Cure-alls

“Feed a cold, starve a fever.” This tale is a myth. If you have a cold or fever, eat nutritious foods when you feel hungry. You need fluids, rest, and nutrients. Not even antibiotics can help cure the common cold. The same logic applies to the old advice to “sweat out a cold.”

“Vitamin C prevents colds.” Although some studies have been done on the value of vitamin C as a cold remedy, not all reports conclude that the popular supplement can prevent colds. And “megadoses” of vitamin C may do more harm than good.

“Put butter or ice on a burn.” Neither can cure a burn, and ice may cause frostbite. Use cold water to soothe the pain instead.

“Children can never drink too much fruit juice.” Some reports state that children who drink large amounts of juice may be more prone to obesity, tooth decay, diarrhea, and other problems. Moderation is the key.  

Causes of illness

“You’ll catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair.” Chills don’t cause colds, viruses do.

“Children are more likely to catch infections in doctors’ waiting rooms.” Experts say that children are no more likely to catch infections waiting at a doctor’s office than at home or school.

“Drinking milk when you have a cold increases mucus production.” An Australian study found that milk does not increase congestion or secretion.

“Eating yeast products can increase your chances of contracting a yeast infection. Eating yogurt can cure one.” According to experts, studies have shown that diet does not affect yeast infection or treatment.

Signs and portents

“You can determine the gender of the baby by the way you are carrying.” Ultrasound and amniocentesis are the only proven methods to learn the sex of a baby in the womb.

You’ve probably heard many other old wives’ tales. Although they may not be true, don’t necessarily believe all of the “latest” medical information posted on the Internet or in advertisements. Consult a health care provider for medical advice and to ask about the validity of any “old wives’ tale” you’re tempted to try. 

By Kristen Knight
Source: Aurora Advanced Healthcare, www.ah.com; American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org; BabyCenter, www.babycenter.com; Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, www.ext.colostate.edu; Readers' Digest Canada, www.readersdigest.ca; Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein. Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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