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Top 10 Old Wives’ Tales Debunked

by Listverse Writers
fact checked by Alex Hanton

Almost all of us have, at some time, been chided by a parent or grandparent who has been mislead by an old wives’ tale. Their intentions are always good, but unfortunately they are misguided. There are thousands of old wives’ tales – ranging from the seemingly logical to the outright bizarre.

This is a list of ten of the most common old wives’ tales which are, in fact, bunkum! Feel free to use the comments to tell us about some of the more unusual tales you have come across in your life.


Feed a Fever Starve a Cold


In fact, both colds and fevers cause dehydration – so liquids are essential when suffering from either. In addition, missing out on food when you are sick is never a good idea as food provides the body with the sustenance it needs to get healthy. So, you should feed a fever and feed a cold. This, of course, does not mean to overeat – it means to eat healthy balanced meals.


Eating Before Swimming

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There is an old wives’ tale that says that if you eat within an hour of swimming you will get cramp. The Red Cross says that eating directly prior to swimming does not increase risk of cramp at all. They do, however, recommend at least waiting for digestion to begin if you have eaten a particularly fatty meal. They also recommend that you not eat gum or food while you are swimming.


Chocolate Causes Acne


There is actually not an iota of evidence to support this tale – no food type (not just chocolate) can cause acne or bad skin. Needless to say, eating too much chocolate or sugary food is unhealthy for the body, but it will not cause skin problems. Acne is actually caused by changes in the lower layers of the skin surrounding hair follicles.


Carrots Improve your Vision

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It is possible that this tale came about due to allied propaganda during the second world war when rumors were spread that the British airmen had excellent night vision due to eating carrots. The myth was spread to stop the Germans from discovering that the British were using Radar. While carrots contain vitamin A which is good for healthy eyes, eating lots of them will do nothing to improve your vision.


Catching a Cold


There are a huge number of myths about how to catch a cold, but in fact there is only one way to catch a cold virus – by direct contact with the virus itself. You can stand outside on a cold night with wet hair and your chances of getting a cold do not increase at all. The reason that colds seem to spread more in Winter is not from the cold itself, but the fact that people tend to live more often indoors and this increases your chances of coming in to contact with a sufferer. It is also worth mentioning that if you get a cold in your nose, you can not stop it from spreading to your chest if the virus is programmed to attack you there. Most cold medicines are completely pointless and do nothing to help except alleviate the pain through the inclusion of painkillers.


TV and Eyesight

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My parents constantly told me off for sitting too close to the television when I was a kid – I was told that my eyesight would deteriorate from doing so. The same was also said of reading in dim light. In fact, neither of these things do any damage to the eyes. It should be noted, however, that spending too much time in front of the TV is not good for children (regardless of how close they sit) as research has shown that children who spend 10 hours or more in front of the television each week are more likely to become overweight, aggressive, and slower in school.


Masturbation Causes Blindness


The tale states that masturbation will cause blindness (in France it is said it will cause deafness). This is not true (at least not completely) and the idea has probably been spread in order to prevent children from masturbating for religious reasons. Curiously, sperm contains quite a lot of zinc, and a serious zinc deficiency can cause a decline in vision. However, it is nearly impossible to cause a zinc deficiency through masturbating.


Knuckles and Arthritis


While it is true that constant knuckle cracking can reduce the strength of your grip and cause swelling, it does not lead to arthritis. There are many causes of arthritis (such as trauma or infection of a joint, or old age), but knuckle cracking is not one of them.


Spicy Food and Ulcers

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If a person suffers from an ulcer, spicy food can often aggravate it; however, ulcers are not caused by spicy food at all – if they were, ulcers would be pandemic in many eastern nations. An ulcer is usually caused by overuse of medications like aspirin and anti-inflammatories.


Toads and Warts

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It is almost certain that this strange old wives’ tale has come about because of the appearance of wart-like growths on many toads. In fact, these growths are not human compatible at all. Warts are caused by viruses and they are almost always exclusive to a particular genus of creature. Human’s cannot catch warts from other animals, and animals can not catch human warts. The most common human wart virus is called the human papillomavirus.

fact checked by Alex Hanton
Listverse Writers

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