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Myth or Truth: What do you Think?
01/07/11

Our Experts Clear Up Confusion Around Some Common Health Misconceptions

Does carrying a pregnancy high mean you're having a girl?
It seems that at some point in her pregnancy every woman encounters a well-meaning friend, family member or casual acquaintance who claims to know the sex of her baby.

Common wisdom says that carrying high and wide means a woman is having a girl, while carrying low and narrow means she is having a boy. So, is there any truth to this? Not a bit, says Howard Blanchette, M.D., Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Westchester Medical Center.

"I'm familiar with the myth but there is no evidence at all that carrying high means it's a girl. In fact, I'm aware of no outward signs that can be used to determine the gender of a baby," says Dr. Blanchette. "The only way we've been able to determine gender is by the use of ultrasound."

Will you catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair in the winter?
Mothers have been saying this for generations. But according to Theresa Hetzler, M.D., a pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, being cold and wet does not cause colds.

"Going outside with a wet head, no matter what the temperature, has no impact on whether you catch a cold," says Dr. Hetzler. "Colds are caused by viruses."

More than 200 viruses cause colds, the most common being the rhinovirus. People get more colds in winter because they spend more time indoors in close proximity, Dr. Hetzler says, adding that the best way to prevent colds is to wash your hands frequently.

Should you feed a cold and starve a fever?
This old wives' tale may date back as far as the Middle Ages, but it is no truer now than it was then. Whether you have a cold or a fever, Dr. Hetzler says, your body needs nutrients and hydration to help it fight infection and heal.

"You may not feel like eating when you have a fever but there is no evidence that starving a fever will help you get better any more quickly," she says. "It is good idea to drink plenty of fluids because liquids help thin mucus, get rid of secretions and lower your body temperature."

Do you have to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim?
Parents often tell their kids it's dangerous to go swimming within 30 minutes of eating. And they probably do it because that's what their parents told them. However, that sage advice doesn't hold water.

"This myth is based on the mistaken belief that blood going to the digestive tract will rob the muscles in your arms and legs from the oxygen needed to work properly," says Stuart H. Berezin, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. "Although the body supplies extra blood to the GI tract to aid in digestion, it isn't enough to stop your arms and legs from functioning."

So, go ahead, let your kids jump in – even if it has been only 29 minutes.

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