High time to debunk health myths

Shatter those time-honored untruths now!

By Barbara Pierce


For as long as scientists have been studying the human body, you’d think they’d have it pretty well figured out.

But faster than Christmas rolls around every year, new research uncovers some mind-blowing truth that changes everything. Once upon a time, cigarettes were “physician tested” — really!

As these debunked “facts” prove, when it comes to the human body, we’re still learning.

Andrea Finocchiaro, a primary care physician with the Oneida Medical Office of the Mohawk Valley Health System, updated us on some “facts” you may have learned as a child that are no longer true.

• Reality: Vitamin C doesn’t prevent or treat a cold.

Many people take large doses of vitamin C, thinking it will stop a cold, said Finocchiaro. “It doesn’t work. If you get a cold virus, you’ll get a cold.”

Researchers found that taking vitamin C every day did not prevent the number of colds that a person got.

• Reality: You won’t catch a cold from getting chilled.

You may have heard this one from your mother: “Don’t go outside with wet hair or you’ll catch cold!”

With all due respect to mom, that isn’t how you get a cold. If you spend all day outside in cold weather, even with wet hair, you won’t catch a cold. “Germs are what cause colds,” said Finocchiaro.

Colds and flu are common in the winter because the cold forces us indoors where germs spread more easily in enclosed spaces where people are clumped together, explained Finocchiaro.

It’s a good environment for bacteria to reproduce. To prevent catching a cold or flu, disinfect surfaces others have touched, like doorknobs and your keyboard if you’re in an office. Wash your hands frequently.

• Reality: If you’re ill with a cold or flu, stay hydrated and eat moderately.

“Feed a cold; starve a fever” is another piece of advice we learned. “If you’re ill, you shouldn’t starve or feed anything,” said Finocchiaro. If you have a cold or the flu, it’s important to stay hydrated and to get enough liquid. Also, eat moderately; chicken soup is especially good when you’re ill, she added.

Hit the gym

• Reality: Losing weight takes much much more than will power.

Willpower might work for a short period of time in dieting, but eventually, almost everyone breaks down. Our brains are wired to crave high-calorie foods, especially sugar and fat.

“It takes much, more than will power to lose weight!” said Sheila Kolleer of Weight Watchers in Utica. “It takes desire, planning and strategies, and forgiving yourself for failures. And never give up!”

Plan strategies to avoid hunger and temptation. Stock up on healthy snacks and keep tempting foods out of the house.

• Reality:  Eggs are good for you.

There was a time we were advised to avoid eggs, especially when it came to heart health. “Eggs are good for you, very healthy,” said Finocchiaro. “Four to six a week is excellent, as they are low in carbohydrates and a great source of protein.”

• Reality: Do not put butter on a burn.

Another thing our mother did was put butter on our burns. But putting butter or ointment on a burn will hold the heat in and cause more of a burn, explained Finocchiaro. Cold water is best.

• Reality: Sugar does not make kids hyper.

Excessive sugar doesn’t make kids hyperactive, said Finocchiaro. What does happen is that if we consume an excessive amount of candy or sugary food, we get a temporary endorphin release, a surge of energy, followed by a sugar crash, which causes a child (or adult) to become cranky and irritable.

• Reality: Vaccines are essential to protect children from dangerous diseases.

Vaccines have been under fire. Fear of vaccines has led many parents to delay them or avoid them altogether. The myth that vaccines cause autism has long since been debunked, said Finocchiaro.

The fact is development of vaccines is one of the greatest advances in modern medicine — right up there with antibiotics and anesthesia.

“Vaccines are the safest way to protect you, your children and your community from a long list of serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses,” says the New York State Department of Health online. “Vaccines protect you by preparing your immune system to recognize and fight serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases.”

A number of safeguards are required by law to help ensure that the vaccines people receive are safe, states the Oneida County Health Department online. “The safety of vaccines is thoroughly studied before they are licensed for public use,” the website states.

Vaccines protect us from extremely dangerous and often deadly diseases. Vaccines have successfully controlled diseases like polio, measles, and whooping, but outbreaks have been seen now that vaccine scares are on the rise.

Don’t believe the fear. For the protection of all children, it is wisest and best to have yours vaccinated.