Old wives’ tales: true or false?
Did you believe any of these?
Old wives’ tales are steeped in tradition, originating hundreds of years before modern medicine, the internet and other discoveries and inventions that have changed our lives. So why do we still believe advice that seems little more than folklore when our world today is filled with medical advances? Read on to find out which old wives’ tales bear a hint of truth.
1. Wearing shoes helps a baby learn to walk
False. Letting a baby learn to walk barefoot can strengthen their foot muscles. On the other hand, a toddler needs comfortable, well-fitting shoes that have a little extra room for growth.
2. Cats will suffocate a sleeping baby
False. This belief originated in the 16th century, when cats were believed to be witches’ companions and therefore evil. A cat won’t suffocate a baby by stealing air from his or her mouth, as the tale suggests. However, as with all pets, introduce cats to a small child gradually and keep them out of your baby’s cot.
3. Feed a cold and starve a fever
False. Drink plenty of liquids whether you have a cold or a high fever, since both cause fluid loss and dehydration. Drinking liquids including fruit juice and water will help prevent this.
4. Fish is brain food
True. Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids that are useful for brain function. However, some medical experts advise pregnant women not to eat certain types of fish, such as tuna, as they may contain potentially harmful levels of mercury.
5. Chocolate causes acne
False. No one food has been proven to cause acne. However, eating an abundance of high-fat, sugary foods is never a good idea for general health reasons. Eat it in moderation.
6. Spicy food causes ulcers
False. Ulcers are normally caused by certain pain medication, or by a bacterial infection. Spicy foods can irritate existing ulcers, but won’t cause new ones.
7. Carrots are good for your eyesight
False. During World War II, British intelligence spread the myth that the pilots had amazing night vision due to eating a lot of carrots. This was to hide the fact that they were, in fact, using radar. Although carrots and many other vegetables contain vitamin A and are good for you, they won’t improve your eyesight.
8. Salt water cures impetigo
True. This highly-contagious bacterial skin infection can spread through a school like wildfire. Although the best cure today is antibiotics, washing in salt water can help cure it faster. My own mother contracted impetigo in the 1940s and suffered the discomfort of having ointment applied on a sticking plaster, which hurt when it was pulled off. A two-week seaside holiday, with lots of swimming in the sea, saw her return to school in the autumn impetigo-free.
Although some old wives’ tales contain a little truth and have their place in modern life, the best all-round parenting advice can be gained from speaking to health professionals. Old-fashioned cures can help, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for seeking medical advice in the event of a child’s illness.