20 Old Wives’ Tales You Should Stop Believing By Now
Will you a catch a cold with wet hair? Will your potato salad go bad in the heat? Does a drink help a hangover? We’ve got the answers that debunk (or defend) common old wives’ tales.
Old wives’ tale: Don’t go outside with wet hair. You’ll catch a cold.
Getting chilled does not cause a cold—at least not under laboratory conditions. In one study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, two groups of people were exposed to viruses that cause the common cold. One group was exposed to the germs in a chilly 5°C room; the other group, in a balmy 30°C room. The result? Both groups caught colds at about the same rate. Sorry, old wives.
Old wives’ tale: Foods with mayonnaise spoil faster
Turns out this old wives’ tale is not actually true. When you turn your leftover chicken into chicken salad, the mayonnaise actually helps prevent spoilage. Why? Because commercial mayonnaise is somewhat acidic. The upshot: when you’re heading out for a picnic or setting out a buffet, you don’t have to avoid mayonnaise—just be conscious of keeping the food cold. And if you know that there will be leftovers, cover the dish and get it in the refrigerator as quickly as possible.
Old wives’ tale: Feed a cold, starve a fever
Forget the old saying about “starving a fever” to make it go away. (Actually, the original saying was “feed a cold, stave a fever,” stave meaning “to prevent.”) Fasting will weaken you just as you should be preserving your strength. Even if you don’t feel like eating, you should consider trying bland foods, such as chicken soup, toast, or other soothing foods. Contrary to this old wives’ tale, medical experts assert that eating bolsters your immune system and arms your body to fight infections. For the fastest recovery, forget starving your fever—and these 15 other health myths that make doctors cringe.
Old wives’ tale: Overdo it? Have little hair of the dog.
The 16th century English dramatist John Heywood suggested that the best way to recover from a hangover was to have the “hair of the dog that bit you”—meaning, another alcoholic drink. The old wives’ tale and the expression is a spin-off from the misguided notion that you could recover from a dog bite by plucking a hair from the dog and holding it to the wound. Unfortunately, the advice doesn’t work any better for hangovers than it does for dog bites. Drinking your way out of a hangover will only postpone and prolong your misery.
Old wives’ tale: Chocolate gives you acne
You may have heard this old wives’ tale when you were younger, as you were forced to make the heart-wrenching decision between the rich taste of chocolate and an embarrassing day at school. Chocolate lovers are in luck, however, because experts have ruled that this old wives’ tale is not necessarily true. It is true that a high-fat or high-sugar diet can exacerbate acne and sugary or dairy-filled foods often cause hormone fluctuations, which can also increase acne. However, there is no evidence that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate directly triggers acne—and dark chocolate actually promotes numerous health benefits. The bottom line? Regularly eating large quantities of chocolate can introduce excessive amounts of sugar and fat to your diet, and contribute to increased acne. However, relishing a chocolate bar from time-to-time will not change your skin—only your happiness.
Old wives’ tale: Don’t eat spicy food if you are prone to ulcers
Doctors used to think spicy foods were no good for people with peptic ulcers. Modern research, however, has shown that this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest that hot peppers, which contain a chemical called capsaicin, may actually help to heal ulcers by stimulating blood flow to the wound.
Old wives’ tale: Get your hair squeaky clean
Forget the old wives’ tale about washing your hair until it’s squeaky clean. Shampooing your hair until it squeaks strips the hair shafts of necessary oils. Instead, apply shampoo to the roots only and work it gently into the rest of the hair. Lather only once, rinse thoroughly, and apply conditioner—unless the conditioner is already in the shampoo. Here are our favorite 45 beauty tips from grandmas.
Old wives’ tale: Put some brandy on your baby’s gums
A risky remedy. Most new parents have heard the old wives’ tale that dabbing brandy or whiskey on a baby’s gums will alleviate teething pain. On one hand, it may seem harmless to dab such a minute quantity of alcohol on your baby’s gums—not to mention that you’re desperate to soothe their pain. However, even a very small amount of alcohol can be toxic to a baby and is strongly discouraged by medical professionals. Instead of this alcoholic antidote, try using natural remedies, such as massaging a warm washcloth on your baby’s gums.
Old wives’ tale: Never open the door when baking a souffle
Opening the oven door is unlikely to be a disaster unless your kitchen is very drafty, but you are much more likely to make a successful soufflé if you keep the oven door closed during cooking. The soufflé should increase in volume by at least half and sometimes as much as double and to do this it must cook at the correct temperature. Opening the oven door will cause a sudden drop in temperature.
Old wives’ tale: Turkey makes you tired.
Each year on Thanksgiving, as we clean the last lick of turkey and stuffing off of our plates, a wave of exhaustion hits us. Many people identify this sleepy state as a side effect of the turkey, but this is just another old wives’ tale. While meat does contain an amino acid that helps to create melatonin, a brain chemical known for making people tired, turkey does not actually cause more fatigue than other foods. So, why are you tired after your Thanksgiving banquet? The large quantities of carbohydrates and alcohol that most people consume on this holiday are the real culprits behind this widespread fatigue, so you can pardon the poor turkeys—of blame, at least! Similar to this false turkey tale, here are 17 common science “facts” that are not actually true.