Warning! Long-held beliefs are about to seriously be questioned. Most old wives' tales are so intertwined in our way of thinking you don't realize they aren't* actually based on facts. Old wives tales, if you aren't familiar, are long-held beliefs passed down from generation to generation, and especially popular with the grandmas of the world who claim they work. Or, were tales used to hinder specific childhood behavior that has been repeated for ages (turns out it does not take seven years for gum to dissolve in your stomach, MOM).
Generally, they are a mix of superstition, loosely held facts, or a case of a small sample size result taken as gospel and spread to the masses. The following are some of the most widely told old wives tales that most of us wholeheartedly believed at one point or another in our lives.
I spent the entirety of my teenage years believing this, but despite common belief, shaving your hair does not make it grow back thicker or even at a faster rate. Still, the myth lives on, even almost 100 years later, after a study in 1928 debunked the thinking. Turns out, it's somewhat of an optical illusion. When shaving, your razor cuts the hair from the surface of the skin, but it does not remove the hair entirely, so when the hairs grow back through the surface of your skin, it often looks and feels thicker due to the blunt end from where the razor cut, but they really aren't.
The age-old adage is to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before going swimming. The myth likely started because digestion diverts some of your blood flow from your muscles to your stomach. The next part is where it gets a little far fetched, It was then assumed the full-body exercise of swimming would somehow inhibit the necessary blood flow to the stomach, causing cramps so severe that you could be in a paralyzed state and drown. This crazy theory is so widely believed it prompted The American Red Cross to issue an entire study on how that's not the case. There have been no documented deaths from drowning from a full stomach, and the research confirms this can be dismissed as a myth.
But I saw this on Friends, and it totally worked for Monica!! Unfortunately, like most of the things we see on TV, it wasn't real. In reality, treating a jellyfish sting by urinating on it may actually cause someone even more pain than relief. According to Scientific American, urine can actually aggravate the jellyfish's stingers into releasing more venom. In short, seek medical attention, don't pull a Joey.
Turns out there are a lot of bad, downright dangerous old wives tales that are far from harmless. Raising arms when someone coughs might actually make the situation more dangerous. The motion of the arms influences the movement of one's neck and trunk. In turn, the food causing the coughing can shift and block the airway. Another bonus myth-buster while we're on the subject of coughing/choking. Never pat a person on the back when coughing; this might cause the offending food to fall into the airway and induce choking.
Nope, it turns out I just ate too much. Thanks, science. That sleepy haze can follow any large meal, not just Thanksgiving. Blood flow and oxygenation to the brain decrease after consuming meals either high in protein or carbohydrates. The other myth surrounding turkey is that it contains a large amount of tryptophan-- which does induce sleep, but turkey doesn't have a higher amount than most meats, so wrong again!
It's easy to see how this one got started since it is true that chewing gum isn't designed to be consumed. According to WebMD, If you swallow gum, it's true that your body can't digest it. But the gum doesn't stay in your stomach. It moves relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool." Where the seven years came from, we won't ever know, but one thing for sure, little kids everywhere can rest easy their tummy ache is probably from too much candy, not a slowly dissolving mass of gum.
This is a myth used anecdotally in pop culture quite often. Lucky for us, our brains are way smarter and more resourceful than we give them credit for. The origins of this date back to the turn of the last century by those advocating the "power of self-improvement and tapping into each person's unrealized abilities." The scholars of the day thought there had to be a reason some people were lazy. Turns out, they were just lazy. Numerous types of brain imaging studies for decades show that no area of the brain is completely silent or inactive. #winning
If your mom is anything like mine, reading this list won't actually convince you that you can't catch a cold from being out in the cold, or repeating to your own kids to put a jacket on so they don't "catch a cold." Alas, it's just not true (even though I plan to keep saying that to my kids). Here are the facts: Cold weather doesn't make you sick. Viruses and bacteria make you sick. The caveat to that is, in colder temps when there is little moisture in the air, germs hang around longer, traveling farther and can pass more effectively from person to person.