Popular Myths, Debunked
"If It's Raining, Run Through It"
TRUE: Sure, it helps that it's only drizzling instead of pouring, but if your mom told you to bolt through a downpour to avoid getting soaked, she was right to say it. In the new Ken Jennings book, "Because I Said So!," the author and Jeopardy! champ breaks down some of the most ridiculous myths your mother told you and why some of them might even be true.
"Don't Go In The Pool After You Eat"
Image: Karen Blaha / Wikipedia
FALSE: Sure, you can get a stomach cramp, thanks to the undigested food that's getting blocked by your muscle use, but that's probably the worst that can happen. The theory that you might drown or have an aneurysm is pretty ridiculous.
"Your Halloween Candy Might Have A Razor In It"
Image: JIP / Wikipedia
FALSE: The media loves to report that your kids' Halloween candy may be poisoned, but according to sociologist Joel Best, "every time a [poisoning] case has been reported, the cause of death or injury has turned out to be something other than Halloween candy." In one horrific incident, cops uncovered the real culprit: the victim's father, who was later discovered in possession of a life insurance policy on his child.
"Never Run With Scissors"
Image: Suma / Wikimedia Commons
TRUE: While we've never heard of a kindergartner tripping, falling and inadvertently stabbing a classmate with scissors, wielding a sharp object while in motion always opens up all kinds of dangerous possibilities. Apparently, running with an object in hand also makes tripping and falling much more likely, statistically.
"Put On Sunblock Even Though It's Cloudy"
TRUE: Just because your beach day is ruined by those cloudy skies doesn't mean you shouldn't sit there without sunscreen on your nose. The infrared rays are covered up, which makes the air cooler, but not all the ultraviolet rays, which cause sunburn, are blocked. In just 15 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can harm your skin and get a nasty burn.
"If You See Lightning, Get Away From That Window"
Image: Siams / Wikipedia
TRUE: No, you aren't safe in your house from a lightning strike. Windows can get shattered by nearby lightning bolts, although you should mainly worry about getting seriously injured from the glass.
"You Could Suffocate On That Plastic Bag"
FALSE: It's highly unlikely that a child will tie a bag around his own head so tightly that he will suffocate to death. It's more likely he'll get a paper cut on his eyelid from the receipt you forgot to take out of there, really.
"Wear A Hat — It'll Keep Your Body Heat Inside"
FALSE: Internet rumor has it that this theory began with a U.S. military study from the late 1950s, in which subjects were left out in the cold without hats. Their heads were found to be hemorrhaging body heat, the theory goes, thanks to it being their only uncovered area. Another study claimed "40 to 45 percent of body heat" escapes from the head, but this has been debunked by more recent investigations, which found children only let about 10% of their heat out through their uncovered heads.
"If You Have A Concussion, Don't Fall Asleep"
Image: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator; C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist
FALSE: As someone who has had a concussion before, let me tell you, the best thing for it is to sleep. One of the symptoms of the injury was strong fatigue, and trying to outlast the head injury by staying up all night does nothing. As with most setbacks in life, rest is the best way to heal.
"Don't Swallow Gum -- It Stays In Your Stomach For Seven Years"
Image: Lusheeta / Wikipedia
FALSE: We doubt the FDA would allow gum to be sold to consumers if it could stay in our stomachs for years on end, so it's no surprise this urban legend turns out to be a total myth.
An Escalator Can Suck You Under
TRUE: no, really. To a degree, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which reported approximately 11,000 escalator-related accident injuries in 2008 alone. Many of the injured, it must be said, were children, but we should all be careful of letting our shoelaces fall into the crack between the moving steps.
"Dropping That Coin Off A Building Could Hurt Someone"
Image: Jiuguang Wang / Wikipedia
TRUE: It won't kill a pedestrian, but it could cause him/her some discomfort upon impact if you dropped a penny off a skyscraper. Air resistance slows the coin down as it falls, but it could still give an innocent person a bruise if it hit them on the head.
"You Should Get Chicken Pox When You're Young On Purpose"
Image: F malan / Wikipedia
FALSE: For thing, according to recent reports, it's actually possible you will get chicken pox more than once in your life. You may recall the disturbing (true) story of a group of parents who started a Facebook group that shared the lollipops of sick children among their own, deliberately giving their kids chicken pox. This, scientists point out, is crazy, as more than 100 people die from the pox each year and a vaccine in place in Japan since 1988 is more effective than "natural immunity."
"Apple Seeds Are Poisonous"
TRUE: Apple seeds are surprisingly deadly, but only if you swallow so many whole that the cyanogenic acid in each seed that your body cannot process (that is, detoxify) all of it. Just try not to chew up every seed in an orchard and you'll probably live. Probably
"Five Second Rule"
FALSE: Unless you want to risk getting salmonella poisoning from the floor (or wherever your food landed), you better at least wash it off immediately before eating it. Studies have shown that tiles hold the most bacteria, by the way, possibly because the cracks allow salmonella to reside untouched by mops and brooms for weeks.
"Don't Double Dip — You'll Spread Germs"
TRUE: Studies have shown (yes, people got paid to eat dip all day) that dipping sauces and dressings that had been double-dipped were much more likely to have been contaminated by bacteria than dips untouched by those evil Double Dippers. Save the saliva-swapping for the after party.
"You Should Drink 7 or 8 Glasses Of Water Every Day"
FALSE: While we don't recommend ignoring your hydration needs either, Ken Jennings and other smart people say that those "8-10 glasses a day" (geez, who has time for beer at that rate?) stories on health websites are an exaggeration, and that we can also count other beverages in our daily minimums.