Old Wives’ Tales: Fact or Fiction?

Old Wives' Tales: Fact or FictionThe English language is filled with sayings and beliefs that have continued to be repeated long after their original meanings were lost.

Don’t go out in the cold with your hair wet or you’ll get sick.

If a pregnant woman craves sweet foods, she’ll have a girl. If she craves salty or sour foods, it’s a boy.

Watched water doesn’t boil!

These quips can be fun to say and quick to come to mind, but they often aren’t true. Does anyone really believe that swallowed chewing gum will stay in your stomach for seven years?

When it comes to dealing with and preventing sickness, it is easy to fall back on common adages, such as “feeding a cold and starving a fever” or only eating chicken soup, when you’re sick. To help sort through the truths and tales in popular sayings and practices, we’ve debunked of some these old wives’ tales for you.

1. Colds and flus are most contagious before symptoms appear

Your sick germs can be passed on at any point during your sickness. Viruses are the culprit when dealing with a cold or flu. This virus runs through your body while your immune system fights it and the virus can be passed through contact between a sick person and a well person. When you have a cold or flu and you sneeze, rub your nose, or get mucus or saliva on anything other than your body, you pass the virus along with it. As long as you have an abundance of mucus because of your sickness, you can pass the virus to others.

2. Feed a cold, starve a fever

This saying originated in the Middle Ages and was made popular by Mark Twain. As often as it’s repeated, it doesn’t actually work. When sick, your body is working overtime to help you get well and needs a lot of nutrients and liquids to help it fight. Eat whatever nutritious foods sound best and drink a lot of water, Gatorade, or broth.

3. Going out in the cold with wet hair will make you sick

Cold weather can make your nose run, but it doesn’t make you sick. As Rachel Vreeman, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and the author of the myth-busting book Don’t Swallow Your Gum, said, “Scientists have studied this really well. They’ve put cold viruses in the noses of two groups of people. One group was then exposed to cold/wet conditions, and people who were chilled were no more likely to get sick than those who weren’t.”

4. Avoid dairy when you’re sick

Some believe that eating dairy when you’re sick creates an excess of mucus and will lead to increased congestion, however, there is no scientific evidence to support this. So, if you need a smoothie while you’re sick, have at it!

5. Chicken soup will help you feel better

Surprisingly, this one is true. Studies have found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory effects when eaten while sick. It can also keep you hydrated and free of congestion. You don’t have to limit your diet to soup, but an occasional bowl will definitely help.

What old wives’ tales do you follow? Do you think they work?

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