The dictionary defines a myth as an unfounded popular belief that has developed over the years and is usually passed on from generation to generation. While there may be some merit to some of these, they are often not accurate. Below are some of the more common ones.
Myth No. 1 - Feed a cold, starve a fever. When a child is sick, they need calories to help their body fight the infection. Giving extra food will not keep the fever down. Children need extra fluids to help fight the illness.
Myth No. 2 -Cold or wet weather causes colds. Colds are caused by viruses and not by getting cold or wet. This myth probably got started because colds are more common in the wintertime.
Myth No. 3 -Children can get ear infections if their ears are not covered. While it is good judgment to keep a child's ears covered when it's cold, this does nothing to prevent ear infections. Most ear infections occur in the small space behind the ear drum. The tube that drains the middle ear space plugs with mucus from the sinuses. The fluid that collects serves as an excellent medium for bacteria to grow and cause infection.
Myth No. 4 -Weight bearing on infants' legs causes bowing. This myth probably originated years ago when rickets was more common. Rickets - the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme vitamin D deficiency -is rarely seen in the United States today. Babies' legs are actually bowed at birth and gradually straighten by the age of 7.
Myth No. 5 -Iron-fortified formulas cause constipation. No study has ever found a difference in the number of stools per day, consistency of the stools, the number of days without stools, the frequency of colic, between infants that were given both types of formula. All of the approved formulas now contain iron as iron is an essential nutrient for infants.
Myth No. 6 -Teething can cause a fever. This is only partially true. Infants who are teething may have a slight elevation in body temperature, but it is less than 101 degrees.
Myth No. 7 - Going barefoot causes flat feet. Children's feet are flat at birth, and an arch gradually develops by the time the child is 6 or 7. In fact, cultures that go barefoot most of their lives actually have the best formed feet. The only purpose of shoes is to protect the feet and keep them warm.
Myth No. 8 - Infant walkers will help a child walk earlier. This is not true; and, in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that these devices not be used. Many infants have been injured while not closely supervised.
Myth No. 9 -Rubbing alcohol compresses help bring down high fevers. This practice is actually dangerous and should never be used. Alcohol evaporates so quickly that it can bring on chills which signals the body to raise the temperature even higher.
Myth No. 10 - Infants need to have a bowel movement every day. Frequency of bowel movements in infants is highly variable. Some infants may have a stool with each feeding while others may have one every three days. As long as the stools are soft and easily passed, there is no reason for concern.
There are many of these myths or "old wives' tales" out there today. If you have heard any words of advice of which you are unsure, discuss them with your health care provider.
Larry R. Darrah is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner for Wheeling Hospital's Center for Pediatrics in Martins Ferry, under the direction of Dr. Judy Romano.