3 Medical Myths Every Parent Should Know

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As a parent, you want what's best for your kids. You tell them to look both ways before crossing the street and to wear a coat in cold weather. But not all conventional wisdom we pass on to our kids is rooted in fact. Here's a look at 3 common medical myths that every parent should know.

Myth: Sugar Causes Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is often associated with sugar intake. Because of this (and many other reasons), many parents regulate their child's sugar consumption. But while sugar can cause a short-term boost in energy, it is not responsible for most episodes of hyperactivity, as proven in several studies1. If you associate hyperactivity with birthday parties and play dates, don't solely blame the high fructose corn syrup in the punch. Blame the sugar AND the heightened emotional state caused by an exciting experience.

Myth: Swimming After Eating is Dangerous

Most moms and dads advise their kids to stay out of the pool for at least 30 minutes after eating. Why? Because their moms and dads told them that if you swim after eating, your muscles may cramp and cause you to drown. This is a myth. It is true that the body diverts blood flow to the gastrointestinal system during digestion, it does not hinder the functionality of your muscles2. You should be able to swim safely, even after lunch.

Myth: If You Don't Wear a Coat, You'll Catch a Cold

Despite what your parents may have told you, wearing a coat won't keep you from getting sick. You can be decked out for cold weather, from long johns to a fur-lined hat, and you may still get a cold. This is because your body's temperature has nothing to do with whether or not you contract the cold virus. Studies have shown that people who are exposed to the rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold) while they were cold were no more likely to get a cold than those who stayed toasty warm3. If you're wondering why, then, do most people get a cold in the winter, scientists hypothesize that it's because cold weather keeps people indoors in close quarters, which makes it more likely for germs and sickness to travel from person to person.

These are just a few medical myths that most parents teach their children, rooted in good intentions. But now you know which bits of conventional wisdom not to pass on to your own kids.


1. Vreeman, R. C. & Carroll, A. E. (2008). Seasonal medical myths that lack convincing evidence. BMJ, 337, 1442–1443. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2769

2. HowStuffWorks (2014). 9 medical myths. Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/health-myths/9-medical-myths.htm#page=8

3. Nixon, R. (2010). 10 medical myths that just won't go away. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/36100-10-medical-myths.html