15 Warnings From Mom That You Needn’t Worry About

“Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.”

– Bob Marley

WarningYour mother was right a lot of the time: Scratching only makes it worse and high school’s not the end of the world. But she got a few things wrong, too. Some lies were told out of necessity, others out of ignorance, and a few were simply sins of omission.

So settle in for some regression therapy as we identify the little white lies from your tender years that you need to let go. On with the subject at hand:

Warning #1: “Don’t go out without a coat or you’ll get sick!”

Truth: Colds and flu are not caused by catching a chill or by dejectedly walking home from your girlfriend’s in the rain without your rubbers. Nonetheless, this myth persists, largely because most people get sick during winter, when these situations commonly occur. It may even be possible to think yourself ill. If you dread damp feet, your brain may depress your immune system when it happens.

Warning #2: “You’re gonna fall and crack your head open!”

Truth: Your skull can split like an egg, but it would require a severe impact, such as falling into the corner of a coffee table. You’re much more likely to fracture your skull.

Warning #3: “Chewing gum stays in your digestive system for seven years!”

Truth: Gum, or anything else you swallow, will pass typically in a days time. Of course swallowing gum is not considered healthy but it definitely won’t get stuck.

Warning #4: “Someday your face will freeze like that!”

Truth: No matter how far you stretch the corners of your mouth or how deeply into your nostril you plunge your tongue, facial muscles will never become paralyzed as a result.

Warning #5: “Don’t watch TV with the lights off. It will hurt your eyes!”

Truth: People will agree without thinking with this statement. And in general you should limit the amount of TV you watch as it can be harmful to your eyes. However, ophthalmologists generally agree that watching TV in the dark doesn’t cause any more harm than watching TV with lots of light. It has nothing to do with the amount of light.

Warning #6: “Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident!”

Truth: When emergency-room personnel cut the clothes off trauma patients, it’s done so quickly that they never pay attention to whether the underwear is stained, dirty, or full of holes.

Warning #7: “If you don’t wait an hour after eating to get in the swimming pool, you will get a cramp and die!”

Truth: Exactly 0 deaths have ever been attributed to entering a pool too quickly after eating. Muscle cramps in the calves, feet, and hands and oxygen-deprivation stomach cramps while swimming are not uncommon but have never been linked to a death.

Warning #8: “You can’t have any of my coffee. It will stunt your growth!”

Truth: As far as caffeine stunting one’s growth, this is a myth. Scientists have had many concerns about this possible side effect, but there is no compelling evidence that drinking coffee at a young age can stunt growth. Matter of fact a 30 year study of coffee drinkers showed no evidence of repressed growth.

Warning #9: “If you break a leg, don’t come running to me!”

Truth: It’s unlikely that you’d be able to run with a broken leg, but you could still walk. There are people with broken legs that walk into the E.R. Sure it hurts like crazy, but the muscles spasm and produce enough support to bear weight.”

Warning #10: “Don’t play with that toad, you’ll get warts!”

Truth: Did you ever hear this one? The truth is warts are not caused by holding, touching or even kissing a toad. Warts are caused by human papilloma virus. This is a human virus that is not carried or transported by other animals. The odd bumps on the back of a toad are not warts they are to help camouflage them in their natural habitat.

Warning #11: “Keep touching yourself, and it’ll fall off!”

Truth: There’s no evidence that masturbation will cause your staff to revolt. Such exploration is a normal part of growing up.

Warning #12: “You’ll poke someone’s eye out with that!”

Truth: It’s impossible to “poke out” an eyeball with a sharp instrument. What you’ll probably do is pierce or rupture it. To actually pop an eyeball out, you have to get in there with your fingers and pull it out.

Warning #13: “Don’t crack your knuckles. You’ll get arthritis!”

Truth: Probably not but mother was closes on this one. There doesn’t appear to be any conclusive evidence either way regarding arthritis but it appears that there is some weak correlation that knuckle-cracking causes some damage to the hand.

Warning #14: “Don’t cross your eyes. They’ll get stuck!”

Truth: Intentionally crossing the eyes is never a cause of strabismus (crossed eyes); the eyes cannot get “stuck” in a crossed position.

Warning #15: “Eat your carrots. It will improve your eyesight!”

Truth: While carrots are a source of beta-carotene, which is necessary for good eyesight (the liver changes it into vitamin A), chomping on lots of carrots won’t improve your vision. Carrots and other veggies are good for you, but they won’t make you see better in the dark unless you are severely deficient – which is highly unlikely as vitamin A is in a wide variety of foods in our western diet.

So there you have it. Thanks to the internet we can finally break this long chain of old myths.

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  • Tim says:

    Great. I loved #12: “You’ll poke someone’s eye out with that!”

    On a more serious note, are you sure about #1 (cold)? I’ve heard that being cold makes the body use more energy to heat the body, which decreases your immune system.

  • viji says:

    Interesting and enjoyed reading this post Ririan. You picked the most common ones :). Viji

  • Desmond Ng says:

    Haha! What an interesting post…

    I really believed Warning #3 about the chewing gum though. Guess I’m wrong. So sad chewing gum is banned in Singapore anyway.

  • Matt says:

    I’m not sure about the coffee one. My friends brother is in 8th grade and he is only like 4 feet all. He drinks a ton of coffee.

  • KWiz says:

    Oh, how funny, but needed because there are so many people who still believe some of what you’ve listed here. I loved this post! I got here by “stumbling,” by the way.

    Also, I’ll be featuring this post as one of my favorites for this week so my readers can come visit you!

  • Sara says:

    Great post, Ririan! You always compile such insightful and useful lists. Though I might add, it was my dad, not mom, who taught me a lot of these myths! Why do moms and old wives always get the bum rap? 😉

  • K says:

    Great list!

    My mom’s variation on #15 was:
    “Eat your crust…it will give you curly hair.”

    I never did and my hair is still straight as can be.

  • Andrew says:

    Great ones!
    “Don’t watch TV with the lights off. It will hurt your eyes!”
    Maybe not permanently, but it sure as heck hurts!

  • Charity says:

    On Warning #6: “Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident!”
    I am a nurse. Don’t fool yourself. We laugh and talk about you. Of course we will save your life, but we WILL talk about your natty drawers…

  • turander says:

    Funny you should mention emergency personnel. I work(ed) in health care, and I entirely agree to “Charity”: We WILL talk about it, and it will be unpleasant; I hate it if feet are not washed, and I absolutely loathe it if feet are not washed for a week or so.

    There may be things that you hate about yourself – such as brown stains on your underwear, your long toenails, your athlete’s foot – and all of these are very likely to be noticed by emergency personnel (if anything, we are better observers than the average person; noticing stuff is our job). So if you want to do yourself a service, DO clean up before you leave the house. DO clean up before you do a dangerous mountain climb. And DO clean up regularly. Thank you very much, on behalf of myself, “Charity” and everyone else who has to unpack your mangled remains in any case that we hope will never happen.

  • Ririan says:

    Tim, contrary to folk wisdom, exposure to cold does not seem to be responsible for catching a cold or the flu. A study published in the late 1960s, for example, showed that chilling volunteers (actually, prison inmates) did not make them more susceptible to infection with rhinovirus, one of the kinds of viruses that often cause colds, and did not make their colds worse.

    Presumably, the reason people think exposure to cold causes colds and flu is that these illnesses are much more common in the winter. People figure that it’s the cold air (the most obvious difference between winter and summer!) that causes the infections. Most people think it’s true because when they get a cold in the winter, they think, “Last week I was out in the cold air, and now I’m sick.” But they’re not thinking of all the times they went out in the cold and didn’t get sick.

    viji, thank you my friend. 🙂

    Desmond Ng, chewing gum is banned in Singapore? Come visit Romania, we have plenty! 🙂

    Matt, the Framingham study, a thirty year study of a group consuming coffee, came up with no such finding. I guess he has some other problems.

  • Ririan says:

    KWiz, thank you, I hope your readers will enjoy it. 🙂

    Sara, thank you for your kind words, by the way if you insist I might change the headline 😉

    K, nice one! 😀

    Andrew, it is true that your pupils become more dilated in the dark, but not significant enough to make much if any difference in the amount of radiation reaching the retina. Also, equal amounts of radiation can reach the outer structures of the eye like the cornea, conjunctiva, and iris whether you are dilated or not. Anyway, I think a lot more damage can occur from the sun’s harmful radiation if not wearing UV protected sunglasses if spending considerable amount of time outdoors. But as far as TVs and computer monitors in the dark, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Ririan says:

    Charity, turander, don’t get me wrong, I believe that starting the day with clean underwear is a must. 🙂 But I have to say that if someone’s in a car accident of any severity, the question of his underwear’s cleanliness will not be one of my first concerns.

  • roxxe says:

    have you ever seen a bunny with glasses?

    i haven’t

  • HamCoder says:

    The health care folks may giggle when they see your Spiderman u-trou. But the reason for clean underwear is so that the dirt from your drawers doesn’t get into the wounds that you will receive in your accident. British sailors knew a battle was coming because they were issued fresh underwear before going into action.

  • Matt says:

    “when we’re out in cold weather, our immune system has to work harder so we’re more susceptible to catching colds.” http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0311/30/sm.13.html

    Cold doesn’t cause a cold but it makes your immune system work harder and thus you’re more susceptible. Why else would you get colds more often in the winter? It’s not a old wive’s tale as much as it is common sense. The colder your are the more your immune system is affected and the more susceptible your are to anything you have a weakness in. My eczema gets worse in the winter b/c of the immune system thing – in fact, every physical weakness I have gets worse the colder I am.

  • Tantowi says:

    Warning #5: “Don’t watch TV with the lights off. It will hurt your eyes!”
    I don’t like watch tv with 40W lights, I prefer the 15W, it’s more comfort

  • Sara says:

    Oops, I missed your response about the headline till just now, Ririan! Darn! 😉

  • Stephanie says:

    Very cute list. My 5 year old heard about #1 from her grandparents and utterly believes it. But she still likes to go out in the cold without her jacket. That’s kids for you.

  • Naser says:

    Heh “It will fall off”…I wonder if kids these days are dumb enough to let them be discovered while touching themselves..So how can mothers get to this point of say?

  • Bloody Mary says:

    #6 – They may not react, but I’m sure they notice. However, if your accident is very severe, it’s not really going to matter, as you may very well mess yourself when it happens.

    #8 – A friend’s child has been drinking coffee since he was 6mo old. He looks six years old (in terms of height and mass). His calendar age: 8 (2 months until he turns 9).

    No matter how much effort this guy may put into this information, the best way to find out the truth about anything is by asking a professional – not a professional blogger.

  • Sara says:

    Bloody Mary – while I agree with the need to consult a professional for many personal health/lifestyle decisions, I think we ought to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own decisions, not less, and following that, we ought to welcome writers and bloggers who are willing to help us explore information. Everyone has a motive and a filter, even “professionals”. The more people are encouraged to view themselves as the authorities of their own lives, the more that responsibility and confidence will result. It is when we shirk responsibility or uncritically put our implicit trust in someone else that corruption and deception result – but this can happen with blogs or “professionals” (in fact, the ones in power – professionals – are often more susceptible to corruption because money, power and prestige are on the line). Professional opinion is essential, but this doesn’t ever absolve the individual’s right and duty to make their own decision. Ririan and other similarly thoughtful bloggers have just as much value as any perceived standard authority source – because ultimately it is up to us, the readers, to do the leg work and decide what is accurate.

  • Uly says:

    “Why else would you get colds more often in the winter?”

    Matt, maybe because we spend more time in stuffy rooms with lots of other people than outside in the fresh air? In the summer, we’re out and about, and the windows are open. In the winter, we’re inside, and all those germs have more chances to reach us.

    As for your eczema, I might suggest you have an allergy? There are any number of allergens which are more common in winter, again, because we’re inside and exposed to them more.

  • d'glenn says:

    re: comment 12: The impression I got was that Andrew was deliberately contrasting eyestrain/fatigue (which will be affected by too much/too little ambient light, with different people desiring different amounts) with eye damage/injury (which the mythbusting addressed). The wrong amount of light or the wrong direction relative to the telly or computer, may not hurt my eyes, but it will make my eyes hurt.

    re: comments 16 & 24: When I have eczema problems, it’s almost always during winter, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with how dry the air is and/or changes in handwashing habits, not temperature per se. Washing a lot more dishes than usual in between working on a project with lots of exposure to housedust or chalk dust will mess up my skin a lot more than being cold does. (As for rhinoviri, does dry air and the resulting irritation to mucous membranes increase susceptibility? If so, then I’d expect to see colds increase in winter even among people who never venture out into the cold.)

  • kevin says:

    I think there’s some correlation in coffee drinking and growth. Kids need a good night’s sleep to grow up (not just the number of hours but the quality of the sleep), and drinking coffee prevents it.

  • KunSong says:

    Haha, in singapore, we used to get stories about how cracking knuckles will cause them to swell up and how painful it will be then.

    But my group of friends and I ended up cracking our knuckles everyday just to see when it will swell up. Apparently it is just a myth, lol.

    But that’s in singapore, how bout other countries?

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