Bad advice over generations

Wisdom often gets passed down like a cherished family heirloom through the ages. Yet, not all advice stands the test of time. Some nuggets of “wisdom” we’ve inherited are better off left in the past. In this piece, we’ll get into those well-intentioned yet misguided tidbits that have echoed through generations.

“Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold”

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Originating from a time when our understanding of illnesses was rudimentary, this saying implied that eating could warm the body during a cold, while fasting could cool it during a fever. However, modern medicine underscores that our bodies require energy to combat illnesses. Depriving oneself of nutrients during a fever can weaken the immune system, making recovery slower. Both conditions benefit from a balanced diet and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

“You Need to Marry Young”

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Historically, societal norms and economic factors pushed individuals, particularly women, towards early marriages. Young brides were often seen as more desirable, and marrying early ensured economic stability and ample time for child-rearing. In contemporary times, the narrative has shifted. With increased emphasis on education, career, and personal development, many choose to marry later, ensuring they’re mentally and emotionally prepared for the responsibilities marriage entails.

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

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This proverb, rooted in biblical references, propagated the idea that physical punishment was essential to instill discipline in children. Over time, research has shown that corporal punishment can increase aggression, antisocial behavior, and mental health problems in children. Today, child-rearing experts advocate for constructive communication, setting clear boundaries, and using timeouts or loss of privileges as more effective and humane disciplinary methods.

“You Must Wash Your Hair Daily”

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Daily hair washing was a hallmark of personal hygiene in the past. Advertisements and societal norms reinforced this belief. However, trichologists and hair experts now understand that excessive washing can strip hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness, brittleness, and scalp issues. The frequency of hair washing should be based on individual needs, considering factors like hair type, activity levels, and scalp health.

“Sit Up Straight to Avoid Curvature of the Spine”

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The image of a stern teacher or parent admonishing a child to sit up straight is familiar. The belief was that slouching could lead to permanent spinal deformities. While maintaining a neutral spine is crucial for overall back health, the idea of sitting rigidly erect is outdated. Ergonomics experts now recommend adopting a posture that supports the spine’s natural curves, using appropriate furniture, and taking regular breaks to stretch and move, reducing the strain on the back.

“Wait an Hour After Eating Before You Swim”

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This age-old advice was rooted in the idea that after eating, blood would be diverted away from muscles to aid in digestion, potentially leading to muscle cramps while swimming. The fear was that these cramps could increase the risk of drowning. However, while it’s possible to experience some discomfort or minor cramping if engaging in vigorous swimming immediately after a heavy meal, the dire warnings of yesteryears are largely exaggerated. It’s always a good idea to listen to one’s body and avoid intense physical activity right after eating, but a casual swim after a meal is generally harmless.

“Don’t Crack Your Knuckles or You’ll Get Arthritis”

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The sound of cracking knuckles can be unsettling for many, leading to the widespread belief that the habit could lead to arthritis in later life. However, the sound is caused by the popping of air bubbles in the synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. Recent scientific studies have found no correlation between knuckle cracking and an increased risk of arthritis. While excessive cracking might lead to some hand swelling or reduced grip strength, arthritis isn’t a direct consequence.

“Avoid Reading in Dim Light, or You’ll Ruin Your Eyesight”

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Parents and grandparents have long warned of the perils of reading in low light. While it’s true that dim lighting can cause temporary eye strain, leading to symptoms like dryness, discomfort, and headaches, it doesn’t lead to long-term vision damage. However, it’s always best to read under adequate lighting for comfort and optimal visual clarity.

“If You Shave, Your Hair Will Grow Back Thicker and Darker”

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This myth has persisted for generations, leading many to believe that shaving would result in coarser, darker hair regrowth. In reality, shaving merely cuts the hair at the surface of the skin. The regrowing hair might feel stubbly or appear darker due to the blunt tip, but shaving doesn’t alter the hair’s thickness, color, or growth rate.

“Always Keep a Stiff Upper Lip”

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This phrase, particularly associated with British stoicism, advocates for emotional restraint and maintaining composure, even in challenging situations. While resilience and fortitude are admirable qualities, the modern understanding of emotional well-being recognizes the value of vulnerability, open communication, and seeking support. Bottling up emotions can increase stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It’s essential to find healthy outlets for feelings and understand that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

This article was originally published on STEM Education Guide.

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