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Published on February 18th, 2013 | by The Local

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7 Wive’s Tales for Valentine’s Day

Around the Wiregrass and the southeast, there are many remedies and beliefs that our grandparents have passed onto us that simply do not hold water.  A great deal focus on pregnancy, but several focus on children.  Since grandparents sometimes believe they know how to raise your children better than you do, here is some ammunition:
1.  Fever- Yes, a fever does signal some abnormality, usually infectious; however you do not have to treat a fever to prevent brain damage.   The human body creates fever from various signals from the immune system to the hypothalamus to increase the body’s temperature.  An elevated temperature slows down the growth of viruses and bacteria, and it helps the immune system function better.  Controlling a fever will make a person feel better, but it is not necessary.  As long as the hypothalamus is working, the brain will not be damaged from the fever.

2.  Green/yellow mucus- Mucus production does not indicate infection neither does the color of the “snot”.  Mucus is produced in response to an inflammatory process in the upper airway.  The color of mucus can be clear to green normally.   Yellow mucus simply indicates dead white blood cells in the mucus.  White blood cells can be in the mucus from viral infections, bacterial infections, or allergies.  Not every yellow discharge equals sinusitis.

3.  Teething (fever/diarrhea)- This is one of the oldest wive’s tales out there.   Teething does lead to inflammation in the gum line which may elevate normal body temperature, but not to the fever range.  Likewise, teething does not lead to diarrhea.  Teething can be irritating to the child, but true diarrhea and fever should be evaluated by a Pediatrician.

4.  Exposure to cold/wet- Many studies have focused on this belief.  Not a single one has indicated a true link between exposure to cold temperature leading to illness.  The immune system does not work as well at lower body temperatures, but generally is not suppressed enough to allow illness. The cold months of  winter bring us indoors and into close quarters, thereby leading to more exposure to viruses that cause upper respiratory infections.

5.  Acne worsened by chocolate consumption- Acne is actually associated with bacteria on the skin that infect pores/sweat glands.  Chocolate or greasy foods have no association with these organisms.

6.  Tugging at an ear equals an ear infection- Tugging at the ear is commonplace among infants.  Around four to six months of age, infants really begin to notice their ears.  Infants may pull at an infected ear, but that usually is associated with fever.

7.  Urinary smell equals a urinary tract infection- Fortunately, urine smell has nothing to do with infection.  Infected urine may smell bad, but urine can smell differently based on concentration of the urine.  More concentrated urine (less water in the urine) tends to smell.  Less concentrated urine is more or less odorless.

This list is by no means complete, but hopefully you can use it to debunk the grandparents from time to time.

-Justin Hovey, M.D.
Board Certified Internal Medicine and Pediatrics

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