10 More Commonly Believed Medical Myths
I was recently browsing through the book store and a book I saw reminded me of an extremely popular list we published last year. Thus, I decided to do this second list of medical myths. These are all misconceptions commonly heard by doctors and it puts an end to them once and for all – or at least I hope it does! Be sure to add your own favorite myths to the comments.
Most of us probably know at least one or two people who claim to be walking around with a contact lens stuck permanently behind their eye. They will usually use a fear of having their eyeball popped out to retrieve it as the main reason they have just left it there. Well here is the good news for those of you who think you may be suffering this annoying side-effect to contact lens wearing: it is impossible for a contact lens to get stuck behind your eye. There is no cavity behind the eye for it to go. So if you think you have lost your lens – the most likely places to find it are either tucked into a ball in your eyelid or on the bathroom floor where you drunkenly tried to remove it!
This is one for the women (and one the men may want to skip). It is surprisingly common for women to visit the emergency room because their tampon string fell off, and they can’t find their tampon. In almost every case the investigating doctor will find nothing inside. The reason for this? There is nowhere for it to go. The walls of the vagina are closed together until something is put between them (in this case a tampon). At the top of the potential space created in the vagina by an object is the cervix. If a tampon is missing, it is probably because you forgot you removed it.
Rumor has it that you can catch the flu from a flu shot. Well – rumor be damned – you can’t. Flu shots are made of viruses that has been deactivated or killed. Despite the virus not being alive, your body is still able to recognize it for what it is and try to do something about it. Having said that, recently there was a case of enormous quantities of swine flu vaccine being recalled because the lab forgot to deactivate the virus. Oops.
Pulp Fiction – the brilliant film – unfortunately perpetuates a myth: that you can inject a person directly into the heart in order to provide them with drugs as quickly as possible. In the case of the film it is a shot of adrenaline after a drug overdose. Unfortunately it is entirely mythical. Doctors never, ever inject a person directly into the heart – adrenaline is delivered in the case of heart attack, but it is delivered directly to a vein. Also, adrenaline is not used to treat heroine overdose – narcan is. The closest that doctors come to putting a needle near your heart is when they insert it into the surrounding sac to remove excess fluids.
The myth goes like this: the older you are, the less sleep you need. But it is just that – a myth. In fact, the rate of sleep needed is fairly constant throughout our adult life, but once we get over the age of sixty-five we need a little extra sleep. The most likely reason for this myth is that old people can have more difficulty getting to sleep and this reduces the overall quantity taken. But it is inability to sleep which is the problem here – not a lack of need.
Too many are the number of kids berated everyday with the warnings against eating too much chocolate or greasy food: “you will get acne!” In fact, there have been very carefully done scientific studies that show an extremely low probability of acne being caused by either of these things. One such test fed a control group chocolate with no chocolate in it, and the other group got chocolate with ten times the usual. No changes occurred in either group. But don’t forget: too much of either will make you fat.
This is a myth that at least has some basis in real observations. The belief that the heart stops when you sneeze is false – utterly false, but the reason that this myth has come about is that in some cases a sneeze can cause a slightly erratic heart beat. This is merely due to a change in pressure inside the chest.
I bet everyone reading this list has, at least once in their life, cut their finger and stuck it straight in their mouth. This is bad bad bad. The mouth is full of bacteria – it is not a clean environment at all. Sticking one’s finger in one’s mouth after cutting it is an open invitation to infection. Where this weird behavior came from I do not know, but let us hope that we all remember this next time we get a cut.
Ah – yet again we have the movies to blame for this one. Falling asleep after getting a concussion is not life-threatening (in most cases), and you don’t need to slap your children repeatedly in the face to keep them awake if they knock their head (unless they have been naughty). Concussion almost never leads to a coma. But remember – if you or someone you know does have a severe knock to the head, take them to the doctor so they can be sure that everything is okay.
If you have ever had a cold-sore you know how agonizing they can be. And they are extremely contagious so no kissing! But unlike cold-sores, mouth ulcers are not contagious though many people wrongly think they are. So far, the cause of mouth ulcers is not entirely certain – but viruses and bacteria have been ruled out. It is most likely caused by disturbances in the immune system.