By Danielle Samaniego, Divine Caroline
As a kid, my mom warned me about things like sitting too close to the TV, going outside with a wet head, and not letting my food digest before swimming. She even convinced me that eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda at the same time would cause my stomach to explode. While I can attest to the fact that Pop Rocks and soda do not, in fact, cause any bodily damage (other than a fun party-in-your-mouth effect), what about those other kernels of motherly advice? Is there any truth to them or were they all just scare tactics?
1. If you don’t wait an hour after eating before you go into the water, you’ll get stomach cramps and drown: False
The idea behind this is that when your blood rushes to your stomach to help you digest food, you wouldn’t have enough circulation to keep your arms and legs working properly. The tale likely gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, when kids enjoyed local pools and lakes with far less lifeguard supervision than we have now. As a result, parents conjured up a way to keep kids at bay after lunchtime while they got some rest in. But according to HowStuffWorks, we have plenty of blood to keep all of our other parts running just fine after a meal. Some competitive swimmers even eat something immediately before a big meet to give them the energy they need to perform well. Also, during exercise, our bodies produce adrenaline that actually helps deliver oxygen to the muscles that need it most.
2. Don’t sit too close to the television or you’ll go blind: False
Though you might walk away with a serious headache, you won’t lose your sight sitting too close to the tube. You can suffer from eye fatigue, however, just as you might after reading under dim lighting. There’s also the faint possibility that you might develop photosensitive seizures from certain flashing images. (Think videogames, parents!) Let’s not forget the Pokemon incident of 1997, when several hundred kids in Japan suffered such seizures during one of the children’s cartoon episodes. Better to be safe than sorry, say experts, so sitting back at least four to five feet is recommended.
3. Don’t crack your knuckles or you’ll get arthritis: False
This is one of those warnings you might wish was true, if only to stop people from doing it. But according to WebMD, there is no evidence that cracking your knuckles–caused when the bones are pulled apart to form a gas bubble and break the adhesive seal in the joint–inflames the joints and leads to arthritis. About a quarter of the people in the United States engage in knuckle-cracking, which can cause reduced grip strength or weaken the fingers. So while it doesn’t cause arthritis, it’s not the healthiest habit either.
4. Drinking coffee will stunt your growth: False
I totally bought into this as a kid, but research shows that I can only blame genetics for my short stature. Caffeine had been considered an osteoporosis risk factor for years, but a New York Times article reports that the Creighton University study linking consumption to reduced bone mass was inaccurate; the study had been conducted on elderly people with low calcium diets in general. Yet another study conducted on eighty-one adolescents over a six-year period also failed to prove the theory. But before you give your child that coffee over an herbal tea, remember: caffeine is still a strong stimulant.
5. Don’t pee in the pool or it’ll turn red and expose your mess: False
But urine in water can cause irritations like red, puffy eyes or an itchy throat or cough. When swimmers sweat or urinate in pool water, the bodily fluids combine with the chlorine and create chemical compounds known as chloramines, according to the CDC. So you might be able to relieve yourself without getting busted, but please –don’t.
6. It takes seven years for gum to leave your digestive system after you swallow it: False
This urban legend’s roots are hard to pinpoint, but Snopes found that the “warning” likely stems from gum being labeled “indigestible.” It may not break down in the digestion process, but gum will definitely pass out of your system as quickly as everything else.
7. Don’t go outside with wet hair or you’ll get sick: False
This is the kind of forewarning that will prevent you from being uncomfortable more than becoming ill. According to Dr. Rob Danoff of MSN’s Health and Fitness Web page, the only thing that can make us sick is exposure to a virus, plain and simple. The most common way to catch a cold is by inhaling airborne viral particles released by the cough or sneeze of an infected person. Danoff also suggests not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed fingers that may have come into contact with a virus.
8. Eating sugar/candy/food before bed will give you nightmares: True!
It may have sounded like an excuse to rob us of dessert as children, but there is some truth to it. Studies have shown that going to bed on a full stomach can stimulate brain waves, which trigger nightmares. Epicurious.com cited another study which implied that unhealthy foods produce even scarier nightmares. And an article in the Journal of the Mind and Body focused on a ten-person study conducted in 2000, where people were fed ice cream, sandwiches, and candy bars thirty minutes before going to bed; seven of the participants had nightmares while sleeping. After the study, the nightmares dramatically subsided for four of the participants. Just goes to show you that mom wasn’t always feeding you baloney!
So, what have we learned? Most of those little nuggets of Mom-wisdom have been debunked, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer any value to children. It may not remain in your system for seven years, but is swallowing gum really the best idea? And why does a kid need coffee in the first place? They’re embellishments, yes, but in the end, mom was just trying to do right by us.