Stop believing these 4 health myths
It’s time to let go of these outdated ideas.
Katie Mcpherson Published: 2/28/2019
Medicine is always changing, evolving and advancing. But as scientists discover new information, sometimes long-held beliefs are debunked. For example, we used to believe children could outgrow asthma with age, but as any adult patient with asthma knows, that’s not always true.
“Most beliefs about health are generated from things we’re told by family members and friends, and even sometimes physicians,” said Nicole Harris, MD, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care on the Southbank. “Today, patients will look up conditions and treatments for themselves, so that’s helping to debunk some of the misleading information out there.”
Dr. Harris is asked about many of the same health care myths by her own patients. She debunks four of the most common here:
1. Vaccines are risky.
Definitely, the first myth is related to vaccines, particularly the flu vaccine.
“I hear at least once a day that the flu vaccine causes you to get the flu, or, ‘My family member told me they got the flu shot and it gave them the flu,’” Dr. Harris said. “I try to talk to patients about their fear of vaccines. We assure them that the flu virus is not a live virus and does not cause the flu. The idea of vaccines being dangerous came from the theory that they can cause autism. We now have data that disprove this theory.”
Dr. Harris explained that some patients experience symptoms similar to flu, like fatigue, following their vaccination. This isn’t actually the flu virus, but rather the body’s immune response to getting the injection.
2. You can detoxify your body with a detox diet or tea.
Do the Kardashians swear by them? Yes. But physicians say detox teas and diets aren’t going to help much.
“Our bodies are pretty darn good at getting rid of toxins already — they are made to get rid of toxins. If they want to detox, I tell patients the best way is to limit the processed foods they’re eating and replace them with whole foods,” Dr. Harris explained. “Stop reintroducing those toxins to your body because none of those detoxifying diets or teas has been proven to actually flush toxins out of the body”
In fact, check with your physician before trying any detox teas or supplements at home to be safe.
“For patients with chronic conditions, the ingredients of those diets or teas may even be harmful to them.”
3. Green mucus means a bacterial infection; clear mucus means a virus.
A patient comes in because of cold symptoms after one day, but they’ll say I came in for an antibiotic because what I coughed up was green stuff.
“I tell patients all the time the formulation of mucus when you get sick is our body’s immune system trying to fight off infection, whether it’s viral or bacterial,” explained Dr. Harris. “It can be clear with viral, green with bacterial or vice versa — there is no definitive association. There have been studies that have shown green mucus is slightly more common with bacterial infections, but having that feature does not equal a bacterial infection.”
4. Cold weather makes you sick.
Of course, it’s important (and more comfortable) to bundle up when there’s a chill in the air. But forgetting your hat or scarf won’t cause you to come down with a cold that evening.
“In cold weather, certain viruses are more prevalent than at other times. When you’re out and about and you’re exposed to people with viruses and it happens to be cold, you assume it’s the cold weather making you sick when it’s more likely that you were exposed to someone with a virus,” Dr. Harris said.
Those who are looking for the most accurate health information should make sure they’re using reliable sources that are updated often.
“WebMD is not a bad place to start because I think they try to keep their information up-to-date,” said Dr. Harris. “Patients can then follow up with their primary care physician to confirm they’ve read about is a recommended practice.”
According to Dr. Harris, the safest place to ask for accurate health information — even if you believe you know the answer — is to ask your doctor.
“We as physicians – as we read and get new information from studies – we’re able to change how we treat and inform patients about different conditions. Medicine is always evolving, so how we diagnose and treat conditions changes over time. How we treated something five years ago may be totally different now.”
If you need a primary care physician to help you navigate through health facts vs. health myths, call 202.4YOU or visit Baptist Primary Care to make an appointment.