5 health myths busted

Kinderling News & Features

We’ve all grown up being told an old wives’ tale or two surrounding concerning family our health, but many some of these ‘tales’ might be doing more harm than good. We asked Sarah Hunstead, nurse and founder of CPR Kids, to bust these some common medical myths once and for all. 

1. Treating burns with butter 

Over the years butter, ice, even tomato and strawberry jam have all been used as a treatment for burns. 

The theory behind applying butter on burns was that butter was kept cool, so it was thought to be soothing and moisturising like an ointment.

However, butter has a high oil content, which Sarah says does not help at all. 

“A burn needs to have the heat taken out of it,” she says. “But putting a layer of fat over the top of a burn will actually trap the heat and cause the burn to keep burning.” 

Ice doesn’t help either, as it’s too cold and constricts the little veins under the skin so there’s not a good blood flow. If used in the wrong way, ice can also cause a cold burn, and nobody wants that as well as a heat burn! 

2. Green snot means antibiotics 

A lot of people think if snot is green, you need antibiotics. Sarah says that green snot can mean either a virus or bacteria, so antibiotics are not always a given. 

Listen to Sarah on Kinderling Conversation:

Green or yellow snot is actually a sign that your body is working properly. Sarah says, “All those fighter cells, the white cells, are going in and munching up those viruses and bacteria and snot is the debris that’s left.” 

Snot traps things like a garbage disposal system in the nose. And the longer it’s there, the more it has a chemical reaction and the more the colour intensifies (just like a cut apple that turns brown!).

3. Tepid sponging and cold baths help a fever 

We used to incorrectly believe that we needed to lower the body temperature during a fever through a cold bath, applying a fan or cold sponging the whole body.

If you take a cold bath, not only is it unpleasant but it also makes you shiver. And when someone shivers, their muscles move, creating more heat. So a body’s temperature can actually increase as a result of shivering! 

Sarah says that light layers of clothing are all you need with a fever. Do what is comfortable, and what makes you feel better. 

4. You’ll catch a cold with wet hair outside 

Sarah is firm on dismissing this fallacy; “Viruses cause colds - not wet hair.”

If you’re very, very cold it can lower your immune system a little bit. However, for the majority of the time you will be fine with slightly damp hair! 

5. Feed a cold, starve a fever

Many of the older generation take this saying very seriously. Sarah says that it’s not about starving someone of nutrients or feeding somebody up. 

“It’s about fluids. We want to make sure that if [someone] has a fever or a cold (and often they go hand in hand), they have lots and lots of fluids.” 

When sick, if the patient doesn’t want to eat, that’s okay. Giving them good, nutritious food will always help, but first focus on fluids. If they can’t eat anything, just let them be until they feel up to it. As they start to feel better, that’s when food can be reintroduced again.