10 myths you may have heard from your parents

UCHealth’s Dr. Ian Tullberg sets the record straight on some parenting myths.
June 16, 2023
Photo: Getty Images.

Myths often morph into facts in families.

The purpose of these popular myths may be good: attempting to keep kids healthy or encouraging them to behave.

Many of us heard these common myths from our own parents, and without thinking about any proof, we automatically pass them down to our children.

But are these myths from our parents actually true?

To separate fact from fiction, we consulted with Dr. Ian Tullberg. He’s a family medicine doctor and an urgent care specialist at UCHealth Urgent Care – Circle Square in Colorado Springs.

Tullberg helps us debunk 10 common myths that many of us have heard from our parents.

Get ready to challenge your assumptions and let go of some of your favorite beliefs, as Tullberg provides evidence-based, sound advice.

Chewing gum stays in your stomach for five to seven years

False. Most chewing gum is not digestible, meaning that it will travel through your system in a matter of two to four days.

Wait an hour after eating before you go swimming to prevent cramping

False. A normal-sized meal consumed before swimming will not cause cramping.

It is possible to feel tired and fatigued after overeating, so maybe avoid swimming.

We only use 10% of our brain

False. This is a motivational speaker’s ploy (that can be traced back to the early 1900s) to encourage people to live up to their full potential. Studies of brain activity have provided no evidence that only 10% of the brain is used.

Sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind

False. Televisions and other devices emit such low radiation levels that they have little effect on the body. However, staring at the same thing for a long period of time can cause the eye muscles to fatigue, thereby affecting vision. But there has been no proof this causes long-term damage.

Shaved hair grows back thicker and darker

False. Although your mom may have told you this as a young girl so you wouldn’t be so eager to start shaving your legs, it’s not true. Because the hair is newer, it may have not yet been bleached by the sun, and so it appears darker and thicker.

Sugar makes children hyper

False. Several studies have shown that sugar doesn’t cause children to be more hyper. Some studies demonstrated that parents who thought their child was given sugar believed them to be more hyper even when they weren’t given sugar — demonstrating the misconception parents sometimes have.

However, sugar does affect behavior. A breakfast high in sugar has been shown to result in severe deterioration of attention span when compared to no breakfast or whole-grain cereal. One study reported that children who were given sugar had higher levels of adrenaline — a possible explanation for this misconception because higher adrenaline levels lead to symptoms similar to those of hyperactivity.

If you go outside with wet hair on a cold day, you’ll catch a cold

False. Colds are caused by viruses, which you can’t get just from being outside in the cold. You may feel sick if you’re outside all day in the cold or rain — runny nose, chills, fatigue — but it’s not because of a virus. It’s because you can experience the same symptoms when you are chilled as when you are sick.

You lose most of your heat through your head

False. If you look at the surface area, the head is no bigger than the rest of your body. It’s maybe about 10-15% of the total surface area, and that’s the percentage of body heat lost through the head.

Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis

False. A 30-year study showed this is not the case. However, knuckle cracking can lessen one’s grip strength because of repeated overstretching of the tendons.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

False. Breakfast is actually one of the three most important meals of the day. Our bodies need good nutrition throughout the day, but breakfast is usually the one most often skipped, and it shouldn’t be.