5 Popular Old Wives Tales We Grew Up Hearing That Aren't True (and one that is!)

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Playing Family Physician Sets the Record Straight On Popular Medical Advice

Many of us grew up hearing popular old wives tales like use hydrogen peroxide on a wound, don’t swim after you eat and feed a cold, starve a fever. Family medicine physician Dr. Jen Caudle sheds light on what “old school” advice holds up, what doesn’t—and in some cases—what you should be doing instead. 

1) You Should Clean Wounds with Hydrogen Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol 

Dr. Caudle says the answer is no—but suggests something else that will sting less + help more. Check out her full answer here.  

2) Always Wait at Least 30 Minutes After Eating Before Swimming 

"This idea goes as far back as 1908, when the boy scout handbook said that boys had to wait 90 minutes after eating to swim because of a risk of drowning," Dr. Jen Caudle explains. But, ultimately she says this is probably not true. She shares more details as to why here.  

3) Use a Q-Tip To Clean Out Your Ear Wax 

Dr. Caudle says definitely not. "Q-tips can push wax further into the ear canal, which can cause impaction, discomfort, or even a rupture in the ear drum," she explains. Here, she shares tips of what to do instead.  

4) Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

"This phrase goes back a long ways – it's an old wives tale that’s been passed down for years, but you shouldn’t be starving anything," Dr. Caudle says.  

"When you’re not well, make sure that you’re getting proper nourishment, and nutrition, and that you’re staying hydrated," she adds.  

Check out what foods Dr. Caudle recommends for a fever here.  

5) Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis 

"Cracking knuckles isn’t a great habit, but it probably won’t raise your risk for arthritis. That’s the conclusion of several studies that compared rates of hand arthritis among habitual knuckle crackers and people who don’t crack their knuckles," says Dr. Caudle. Read more of what she has to say about this common question here.  

6) Gargling With Salt Water Is Good For a Sore Throat 

This the only true one! "The saltwater helps wash away the mucus that lines the throat and helps reduce inflammation," Dr. Caudle explains. She shares what the exact ratio of salt to water should be here. 

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