Sorting out fact from fiction
Everyone’s heard at least one health–related old wives’ tale that’s so ingrained you assume there must be some truth to it. Here’s the real deal on five common myths that are more fiction than fact.
Myth One: If you go outside with damp hair, you’ll catch a cold.
This advice is simply all wet, says Janet O’Mahony, M.D., a physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “Colds are caused by viruses. The only way to catch one is to come in contact with someone who’s already sick or by touching a contaminated surface.” Nearly 80% of infectious diseases, including the common cold, are spread through touch. Stay sniffle-free by washing your hands often.
Myth Two: Drink eight glasses of water every day for optimum health.
You should take in enough fluids to replace what you lose daily through bodily functions, but that amount varies depending on your age, activity level and even the climate where you live. In reality, most of us get plenty of fluids from the foods and drinks we consume. A simple rule is to drink enough so that you don’t feel thirsty and until your urine is pale. Dark urine means you’re dehydrated and at risk for kidney stones.
Myth Three: Feed a cold, starve a fever.
Being congested, miserable and hungry isn’t at all what the doctor ordered. Your body needs the energy food provides to fight the viruses that cause colds and the flu, and chicken soup is a great way to fuel up. Research shows chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that help clear out nasal passages fast. The best get-well advice: Eat when you’re hungry, and stay hydrated with fluids.
Myth Four: Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis.
When you push or pull your knuckles a certain way, air bubbles form in the joints and make a popping sound. While this noisy habit might annoy others, studies have yet to show that it increases your risk of arthritis. Still, all that snap, crack and popping isn’t exactly harmless: Knuckle crackers can develop swollen hands and weakened hand strength later in life.
Myth Five: Reading in poor lighting is bad for your eyes.
Your eyes work extra hard to see clearly in dim light. While this is tiring, it won’t damage your vision. The same holds true for sitting too close to the TV or staring too long at a computer screen. You can reduce eye fatigue by positioning light sources to avoid a glare and taking five-minute eye breaks every hour (shut your eyes or move away from the task at hand).
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