How many things did you believe into adulthood, only to find out they were completely nonsense? Well, they were most probably told to you by your mum or dad and they are often, with the greatest respect, nonsense. These parent myths don’t stand up to scrutiny and we have roped in some experts to bust them here.
Parent myths and the truth
1. Going to bed with wet hair will give you a cold
Although it won’t feel nice to lay your wet head on a pillow at bedtime, it definitely won’t give you a cold, no matter what your parents say.
“Catching a cold this way seems to be the most commonly-spread myth,” says Dr Natalia Bogatcheva. She explains you may catch a common cold if someone with a cold sneezes or coughs near you, and you can transmit cold viruses via bodily fluids, but stresses: “Wet hair has got nothing to do with it!”
Going to bed with wet hair may, however, damage your hair, and Bogatcheva adds: “One of the issues that may arise is that you can get scalp infections if the skin is kept moist for long periods of time, and wet hair also breaks easily, so may lead to hair damage long-term.”
2. Going out without a coat on will make you ill
Similarly to the wet hair myth, being cold itself won’t actually give you a cold – it’s being exposed to a virus that can make you ill, explains Dr Babak Ashrafi. But he continues: “Cold weather often leads to exposure to viruses, as you’re likely to remain indoors, and some viruses benefit from reproducing in colder, dry weather.”
Some studies also show the immune system may find it harder to fight off illness during a cold spell, he adds. But nothing to do with not wearing your coat.
3. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis
Caroline Aylott, head of research delivery at Versus Arthritis, says: “The simple answer is there’s no evidence to support cracking knuckles leads to arthritis.”
Ashrafi agrees, explaining: “When you crack a knuckle or one of your joints, the sound comes from bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid. Many find relief in cracking joints, but it won’t directly lead to arthritis. “
He points out there are many different types of arthritis, and osteoarthritis can have links to cracking knuckles, but stresses: “This is largely genetic and age-related.” Crack on.
4. Eating crusts makes your hair curly
It’s a nice idea, but curling tongs would do a better job then crusts, say the experts. Another of the parent myths busted. “If you’re looking to make your hair either curly or even more curly, unfortunately, eating crusts will not help,” says Ashrafi. “While the crust may contain more nutrients than the bread itself, no evidence points to them causing you to gain curls.”
5. Sitting too close to the TV will damage your eyes
Your parents may have told you you’d either get ‘square eyes’ or damage your vision forever if you sat too close to the TV as a child. “But this isn’t true,” stresses Ashrafi. “Excessive exposure to screens will only lead to eye strain, as opposed to permanent damage.”
To prevent eye strain, take breaks when watching TV or looking at screens for long periods, and get your eyes tested regularly, he advises. But don’t worry too much about that Netflix binge.
6. Eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares
This is one of those parent myths that persists into adulthood. But it’s nonsense. Ashrafi observes. “Medical experts agree this is an urban myth, and no real evidence points to cheese giving you nightmares,” he says.
Some cheeses, like brie or blue cheese, may keep you awake or alert, as they contain tyramine, which causes the brain to produce stress hormones, he explains, but points out: “There is no real direct link between eating cheese and having nightmares.”
7. Eating carrots will help you see in the dark
This is an urban myth thought to stem from World War II, but Ashrafi says: “Eating carrots will unfortunately not repair your eyesight or suddenly allow you to see in the dark any better. “
However, he points out that carrots are high in vitamin A, which is good for your vision, as it helps the conversion of light signals which are sent to the brain. “So, while it may not cure issues with eyesight, carrots are still a healthy and cost-effective option as part of a balanced diet,” he adds.
8. You shouldn’t swim straight after eating
Ashrafi says there’s truly no safety concerns about swimming straight after eating, although he points out: “Many argue that a full stomach prevents the blood flow within your body, or causes cramp. But if you were to experience a stomach or muscle cramp, this would be unpleasant, as opposed to a real danger.
“It’s up to you to decide whether you feel fit to swim after having a meal – listen to your body.”
9. Chewing gum takes seven years to digest if you swallow it
Bogatcheva says: “This one always makes me smile, and as a mum of a young child, I fully understand why the myth continues to circulate. I think it’s been a scare tactic adopted to create a myth that it will sit in the stomach for years, with the hope that it’ll put some kids (and adults) off chewing the gum in the first place.
“The truth is, the gum – once swallowed – is safely passed through the intestines intact and will not cause any damage – unless, of course, a huge quantity is swallowed and, if clumped together, could lead to an obstruction of the bowels in very young children.”