Are you afraid that the deo you use is going to cause breast cancer, and do you steer clear of cold water in order to avoid catching a cold? There are so many myths surrounding healthcare! But Sara Shah & Katha Nauriyal bust a few common ones to clear up your confusion
We’re always hearing stories about healthcare gone wrong and anything we read about illnesses is always the worst case scenario. So, we don’t blame you for being a bit worried. After all, you could search for a headache on the internet and be left thinking that you’re suffering from cancer! Thankfully, these health scares are quite contrary to the truth. We spoke to Dr. Behram Pardiwala, consultant for internal medicines at Wockhardt Hospitals, to bust a few health myths for you.
MYTH: You can catch an STD from a public washroom.
TRUTH: If STDs weren’t such a serious subject, we’d think that this myth was a tale spun by people cheating on their spouses. Dr. Behram quashes this myth, telling us, “This is quite unlikely. You cannot catch a sexually transmitted disease or infection from a public washroom. There could be a vague possibility if you used the toilet seat five seconds after an affected person used it, but even then, it’s next to impossible.” And there’s a good reason too. The infection-causing germs and bacteria from STDs cannot survive outside the body for too long, and most definitely won’t survive on a cold, hard surface such as a toilet seat.
MYTH: Drinking cold water can cause a cold.
TRUTH: It’s natural to reach for warm, comfort food when you’re down with a cold, but avoiding cold beverages or banning cold water is unnecessary. Dr. Behram tells us, “Drinking cold water has no effect on your immune system and you can still drink it when you’ve got a cold.” We couldn’t agree more, because after some extensive research, even we couldn’t find any concrete proof to back up this old wives' tale. However, Dr. Behram suggests avoiding sudden temperature changes from hot to cold or vice versa, to prevent a cold.
MYTH: Antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
TRUTH: This one has been making the rounds for years, but Dr. Behram rubbishes this claim. The myth stems from the belief that the chemicals in antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, leading to the formation of cancerous tumors. It’s also believed that the chances of developing cancer after using deodorant is higher amongst women who shave their underarms. However, Dr. Behram explains, “Antiperspirants don’t cause cancer, but there are certain sprays that contain carcinogen — one of the leading causes of cancer. So, simply pick deodorants that contain little to or no chemicals.”
MYTH: Cracking your joints causes arthritis.
TRUTH: You could say that cracking your joints is one of the most poorly understood myths. You may remember being told off for cracking your knuckles because it was believed to cause arthritis, but that popping or cracking sound is actually a tiny gas bubble that builds up in the fluid of your joints fingers. Dr. Behram explains, “This myth has been around for a while, but it does not cause arthritis. Instead, it’s the vacuum in your joints that can lead to arthritis.”
MYTH: Alzheimers only occurs during old age.
TRUTH: It’s true that old age is one of the contributing factors for the occurrence of Alzheimers, but studies have shown that the disease can affect patients in their 20s and 30s too. This is due to toxic amyloid that builds up in your brain, regardless of your age. Dr. Behram says, “The disease can start early because of degeneration in the brain and sometimes even because of infections.”
MYTH: You can stop taking antibiotics once you feel better.
TRUTH: No, you must remember to follow the drill! A common myth is that discontinuing your dose of antibiotics once you start feeling better is a good idea. But this can attract bacteria and viruses. Dr Behram says, “Always make sure that you complete your course of antibiotics. Otherwise, you may promote germs and make the antibiotics less effective.
MYTH: Natural immunity is better than getting a vaccine.
TRUTH: Some vaccine critics believe that strong immunity is healthier than getting yourself vaccinated. While, this may be true in some cases, it doesn’t always work that way. Dr Behram explains, “Your level of immunity plays a great role in maintaining your overall health. But it’s not a replacement for conventional vaccines. They shouldn’t be avoided as they are specially developed to cure a specific disease.
MYTH: You can’t prevent heart disease if it runs in your family.
TRUTH: Although people with a family history of heart disease are more likely to suffer from them, there are always ways to lower your risk and to keep your heart healthy. “Your risk of suffering from heart diseases or stroke may be more than the general public, but altering your lifestyle by eating right and working out regularly, can help to control it,” adds Dr Behram. Additionally, make sure to maintain your weight, stop smoking and keep your cholesterol as well as your sugar and blood pressure levels in check.
MYTH: Breastfeeding is enough to keep my child’s immune system healthy.
TRUTH: Dr. Behram explains, “Breastfeeding your child might be enough to keep their immune system strong, but you need to get your children vaccinated regularly in order to keep them healthy.” Breastfeeding your baby is a healthy start; it protects them from respiratory and ear infections. But, it’s not enough to protect them from specific diseases that can only be prevented by vaccination. While your baby may stay protected for the initial six months, giving them regular doses of the right vaccine will help to build resistance.
MYTH: Those who get regular flu shots are safe from swine flu.
TRUTH: Getting regular flu shots is recommended to keep yourself safe from swine flu. But, Dr Behram says it only helps if these vaccines are taken every season. However, he adds, “ You may still run the risk of suffering from swine flu, because the vaccine you take now is to cure the virus of the previous season, since the vaccine required to fight the virus of the current season may not have been developed.”
MYTH: Women who are HIV positive cannot or should not have children.
TRUTH: Of course, women tested with HIV positive can conceive healthy babies! “HIV doesn’t come in the way of healthy pregnancy. But, both mother and child need to be carefully treated and require proper medication at the time of delivery,” advises Dr Behram. With modern medication and treatments, the risk of transmission of HIV from mother to child has reduced drastically. However, plan your pregnancy in advance and make sure that your body is in the right shape to carry it out.
MYTH: You can catch Ebola from contaminated water or by touching someone suffering from the disease.
TRUTH: Merely touching someone who is suffering from Ebola is not likely to transfer the disease. In fact, there’s a very low chance of it affecting you at all. “It’s an extremely infectious disease, but it is contracted from fluids such as sweat, urine, vomit or even through coughing,” Dr Behram tells us. Similarly, mucous membranes and open wounds can also spread the disease. Additionally, the Ebola virus dies within a few minutes of being in water as it is not an environment that is rich enough to host the virus.
MYTH: Fit people don’t suffer from heart diseases.
TRUTH: “Those with a normal angiogram, who exercise regularly, can also suffer from heart diseases. While, people who aren’t fit or don’t have a healthy lifestyle may have a 50% chance of suffering from heart diseases, those who are fit aren’t completely protected either. They could have a 10% chance of being affected by a heart problem or disease.” The reason for this could be other lifestyle habits such as eating junk or unhealthy food, smoking or high cholesterol intake. Additionally, heart diseases could also be genetic or hereditary.