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Old Wives' Tales: Truth or False?

Photo by: Kel McDonald (Flickr)

Thumb sucking is comforting for infants.

Old Wives' Tales: Truth or False?

We all love old wives' tales. They are not only fun to learn, but some of them are actually true. I caution my patients to avoid relying upon them solely, however, because wives' tales can also be - well - tales, and grand tales at that! They are fun, though, so let's see if eleven well-known wives' tales tell the truth or are false.

Wives' Tale #1 - Feed a Cold/Starve a Fever
As a nurse, I am asked this one all the time and it is partially true. The truth is you need to feed both. Your immune system needs healthy foods to help it fight a cold and a fever. So what should you eat when you're under the weather? See wives' tale number two!

Wives' Tale #2 - Chicken Soup Cures a Cold
Chicken soup is a great way to relieve the distress of the common cold and any related fever. The warm broth in the soup loosens mucous and the salt to flavor the broth soothes your sore throat. New science also suggests the chicken meat itself boosts our immunity.

Wives' Tale #3 - Eat Carrots to See in the Dark
We'd all love to have night-vision but it isn't going to happen; our eyes aren't physiologically designed to see in the dark. Eating carrots is good for your overall vision, however. They are rich in vitamin A, which is an important component in maintaining healthy eyes.

Wives' Tale #4 - Fish Boosts Brainpower
Seafood is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and these acids aid in optimal brain function. In fact, research suggests that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids help people suffering from Alzheimer's disease or depression, so it certainly appears fish is good brain food.

Wives' Tale #5 - Spicy Foods Cause Stomach Ulcers
Spicy foods can irritate stomach ulcers, but new research shows they don't actually cause them. Bacteria cause ulcers - the H. pylori bacterium to be exact - so you do not have to stay away from spicy foods unless you find they irritate an already existing ulcer condition.

Wives' Tale #6 - Coffee Stunts Growth
I have to wonder if somewhere along the line somebody just came up with this wives' tale to discourage their children from developing a coffee habit. Coffee does not affect growth one way or the other. It can make you gain weight, however, if you load it up with sugar!

Wives' Tale #7 - Sucking Your Thumb Ruins Your Teeth
True... partially!
Partially true, I believe this wives' tale was also started to discourage children from developing a habit. Infants and young children can suck their thumb without dental damage. Older children can ruin permanent teeth, however, if they're still gnawing on the appendage.

Wives' Tale #8 - Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
This annoying habit will not cause arthritis, but that does not mean I'm saying it's okay to snap those knuckles on a regular basis. Any knuckle cracking is a bad idea because it weakens the ligaments attached to the joint, which can facilitate injury.

Wives' Tale #9 - You'll Catch a Cold if you go Outside with Wet Hair
Colds are spread by viruses and viruses thrive in the warm indoor climates during the winter months. Truth is people aren't catching colds in the winter because they are being chilled by their wet hair. They catch more colds because people are spreading viruses.

Wives' Tale #10 - Tetanus is Only Caused by Rust
This wives' tale makes me nervous. Many people believe that you can only get tetanus if you puncture your skin with a rusty object - not true! The tetanus bacterium, Clostridium tetani, lives on clean metal surfaces as well, and you can also get tetanus from an animal bite wound.

Wives' Tale #11 - Carrying High Means You're Having a Girl
This is a fun wives' tale because we are always trying to guess whether a pregnant woman is having a boy or a girl. Truth is carrying high does not mean you are having a girl; you'll carry your first child high no matter the gender!

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