The Top 10 Untrue Medical Myths

We've heard these medical misconceptions repeated for years, and I'm certainly not the first person to debunk these 10 popular medical myths... myths that have seeped into the zeitgeist, been repeated by parents, friends, roomates and sometimes even doctors. But, according to actual data collected by actual doctors, they aren't true.

Why do we still believe these? They make "logical" sense and they've been told to us and our parents and their parents for so long, they feel like gospel. Choose to believe the data, or not. What are untrue, common medical myths? These are the top 10 medical myths, made properly mythical. 

  • Sugar Makes Kids Hyper

    This is false. In their studies done to debunk many of these medical myths, Dr. Vreeman and Dr. Carroll ( both pediatricians at Riley Hospital for Children) say that in "at least 12 double-blinded, randomized, controlled trials, scientists have examined how children react to diets containing different levels of sugar. None of these studies, not even studies looking specifically at children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, could detect any differences in behavior between the children who had sugar and those who did not."

    The most amazing thing is that in studies in which parents *think* their children have consumed sugar, parents rate their children's behavior as more hyperactive, even if in fact no sugar was consumed.
  • You Can Sweat Toxins Out of Your Body

    Our sweat is the human body's cooling system. We would overheat and die within minutes without it. The things that strain toxins out of our bodies are the kidneys and the liver, and they do a helluva job (thanks you guys! --and sorry about last weekend!). Fad exercises that make you sweat are just fads... or a way to lose water weight so you can pretend like you workouts are working better.

    Sweat contains water and trace minerals, and that's it. No toxins, no germs, no bad spirits. Just stinky water.
  • Catching a Cold in Cold Weather

    This is my favorite one. I've heard it said so many times by so many people... and I think its kind of impossible at this point to tell folks they are wrong. The cold virus is commonly caused by a rhinovirus... which gets into the respiratory system. Once there, the virus binds to the epithelial cells which line the respiratory system just FIFTEEN MINUTES after entering the body. Our body reacts to this invasion by releasing inflammatory molecules to the site of the invasion. Plus, it makes extra mucus to remove alien particles from the body -- hence sneezing and coughing.

    Temperature has no effect on this process one way or another. Neither does wet hair.

    If you ask why colds are more common in the winter, that's as easy as pointing out that people spend much more time indoors in cold weather - in closer proximity. This makes it easier for the virus to spread.
  • Hair and Fingernails Keep Growing After You Die

    Many people, even doctors, have assumed this belief was true. But when you think about it, it can't possibly be valid. This myth likely persists because of an optical illusion -- and because it's just so creepy. When the body dries out after death, the soft tissue like skin retracts. Fingernails appear more prominent... same with hair.... the skin shrinks back and the hair becomes more ... there.
  • The Flu Vaccine Gives You The Flu

    Flu vaccines do *not* contain complete viruses capable of causing the Flu.

    If you caught the flu after your shot, odds are good you caught it waiting to get the vaccine, or you already had it and began showing symptoms shortly after.

    Note: The only vaccine that contains the actual live (but weakened) virus is FluMist, which is sprayed up your nose rather than injected. Theoretically it may cause a mild case of influenza.

  • Starve a Fever and Feed a Cold

    It will not help to lower your fever if you do not eat. In fact, limiting your food intake while you are sick hinders the healing process. Don't force yourself to eat if you don't feel good, but don't starve yourself if you're hungry and can't remember "which one lets you eat". It is very important that you maintain hydration by drinking a lot of liquids, as fever promotes the loss of fluids.