Old Wives' Tales & Kids' Health: Fact vs. Fiction

Judy Dutton | Jan 21, 2015 Big Kid
Old Wives' Tales & Kids' Health: Fact vs. Fiction

mother lecturing daughterMoms are full of health advice. "Put on your coat or else you'll catch a cold." "Eat this, don't do that." Yet while mothers have been passing along this advice for centuries, that doesn't mean they're necessarily right. To get to the bottom of whether mother really does know best when it comes to kids' health, we scrutinized their most beloved advice to see if it held water. The results may surprise you.

Who knew mom was right about thunderstorms?!


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  • 'Bundle Up or Else You'll Catch Cold'


    Image via Khamidulin Sergey/shutterstock

    This common motherly wisdom is still highly controversial. Some docs say that kids get sick more during winter because they're indoors, where the recycled air causes viruses to flourish. Yet a new study by Yale found that our immune systems can't fight off viruses as effectively at lower temperatures, which suggests that going outdoors can be a problem, too. Bottom line: mom is mostly on the money. Wear a coat already.

  • 'Chicken Soup Is the Best Cure for a Cold'


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    Granted, there is no "cure" for a cold, but mom is still in the ballpark that chicken soup will make you feel better. When pulmonary specialist Stephen Rennard had study subjects eat some of his wife's chicken soup, he found that it affected the behavior of virus-fighting neutrophils and reduced inflammation.

  • 'Don't Sit So Close to the TV'


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    Or you'll ruin your eyes, right? Wrong. "This is a wives' tale," says Lisa Lowery, MD, a specialist in adolescent medicine at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Spectrum Health Medical Group. "However, with use of all of the electronic devices -- cellphones, iPads, laptops -- kids may have more eye strain. They should rest their eyes and not stare at screens for long periods of time." One rule of thumb is the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

  • 'Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever'


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    Mom was only half right on this one: You should feed both colds and fevers. The reason: the body needs energy to fight off viruses; plus, fevers cause the body to burn more calories, which should be replenished. Either way kids should try to get something down.

    More from The Stir: 12 Good Foods for Sick Kids

  • 'Wait a Half Hour After Eating to Go Swimming'


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    Or else you'll get cramps and drown ... so dire, huh? Well, it turns out there's no evidence this is true. Sure, eating diverts blood flow to your stomach, but there's plenty left over for your limbs if you swim.

  • 'Don't Shower During a Thunderstorm'


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    This warning from mom certainly seems preposterous: if lightning strikes your plumbing pipes, it can cause a jolt of electricity to travel up to your shower spigot -- then, since water conducts electricity too, you get fried. But believe it or not, the American Red Cross also advises against taking showers or running water during a thunderstorm. So although the odds are slim it'll happen, mom is on to something here.

  • 'Stop Cracking Your Knuckles'


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    Or else you'll get arthritis, right? Wrong. Just ask Donald Ungar, who embarked on a study where he cracked the knuckles of one hand but not the other, daily, for 60 years. According to the results, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, Ungar found no link between knuckle cracking and arthritis, as have other researchers since then.

  • 'Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day'


    Image via Tatyana Vyc/shutterstock

    To get to the bottom of this motherly maxim, researchers examined 36 studies on the impact of breakfast on a child's performance in school. They found that kids who ate breakfast got higher grades. So, moms, keep on pushing that oatmeal.

    More from The Stir: 11 Genius Mom Hacks to Try When Kids Are Sick

  • 'Stop Crossing Your Legs'


    Image via PHB.cz (Richard Semik)/shutterstock

    Sure crossed legs may look ladylike, but it puts you at risk for varicose veins ... or so goes the claim. While studies show that crossing legs does affect your blood pressure while they're crossed, 12 studies say that leg-crossing does not lead to varicose veins.

  • 'Don't Stay Up Late'


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    Mom hit the bull's eye with this one: Kids need their sleep. "Children need at least 8-9 hours a night, teens 9-10," says Dr. Lowery. One study from UCLA even found that kids who stay up late to study do worse on tests. So tell your kids to ditch the cramming and get some shuteye.

    More from The Stir: 7 Sick Kid Etiquette Rules for Parents

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