7 health myths debunked by UCHealth experts

Common health claims and concerns and the truth behind them.
June 6, 2017

Adults need to drink eight glasses of water a day.

True and False: The idea that people need to drink eight cups of water every day was derived from a 1940s article in which the specifics to the recommendation were lost in the article’s summary, according to Dr. Ian Tullberg, UCHealth Urgent Care medical director for southern Colorado. The article actually stated that fluid ingested through our food counts toward that amount.

man drinks water in the woods“And then amounts needed really vary by day and location, climate and altitude,” Tullberg said. “It really was an incorrect summary of information published 70 years ago.”

Tullberg said how much fluid a person is getting or not getting is evident in their urine. A light color means they’re probably well hydrated, while darker urine means they need to reach for a few more glasses of water.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

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

Cough vigorously to save yourself during a heart attack.

False. You may have seen this misconception shared by your Facebook friends or sent in an email: How to survive a heart attack when alone. This internet lore tells people that victims of heart attacks can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and vigorously. But Dr. Patrick Green, a cardiologist with UCHealth, warned that this claim is untrue and said the first thing anyone should do if they feel they’re having a heart attack is to call 911, before they pass out.

Two young kids riding a bike

Laughter is the best medicine.

False: Although laughter is a great way to reduce stress, which is important for one’s general well-being, it’s not necessarily the “best” medicine.

“Unfortunately, this is not true,” said Dr. Justin Strote, UCHealth cardiologist. “Seeing your primary doctor regularly for checkups and preventive health maintenance is much more impactful.”

Sugar makes my kid 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, Tullberg said.

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.

I need to get the strongest SPF sunblock possible to be protected.

False: SPF 15 blocks about 93 percent of ultraviolet radiation, while 30 blocks 97 percent and 50, 98 percent, according to Dr. Ross McFarland, UCHealth oncologist. The difference between 30 and 50 is of such little significance that it’s not always worth paying more. McFarland also overturned the sunscreen danger myth. “Available evidence suggests that sunscreens have no significant absorption into the body and have an excellent safety profile,” he said. It’s safe to lather it on you and your young ones. However, very young children have more sensitive skin, and therefore “baby” sunscreen is best to avoid irritations.

My child’s fever is caused by teething.

False: Babies can have fevers when they are teething, but the idea that the fever is caused by the teething is untrue, according to Dr. Ian Tullberg, UCHealth Urgent Care medical director for southern Colorado.

“Fevers are a sign of infection, so if you chalk it up to teething, you may be missing something,” he warned.

The fever might only be the result of a common cold. Teething can last months, and children are said to get sick with the cold an average of nine times a year. So the two are bound to happen together, but they are not related.

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.