Medical Myths Debunked (cont.)

6: You can catch a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from a toilet seat.

___ True ___ False ___ Who told you that?

ANSWER: False. Mary J. O'Sullivan, MD, vice chair for ob-gyn at the University of Miami, tells WebMD that the idea that you could get an STD from a toilet seat "sounds believeable," but is highly unlikely. Hard surfaces such as toilet seats are not conducive to STDs. Incidentally, there is rumor that the toilet seat myth got started by men who wanted their wives to think a public restroom, not their mates' adulterous ways, had given them an STD.

7: Feeding kids sugar causes hyperactivity.

___True ___ False ___ Possibly

ANSWER: False. Don't go by the kids cake icing, advises O'Sullivan. You may notice a correlation between sugar intake and romping or grumping in the short-term, but not as a cause of chronic hyperactivity.

8: Drinking warm milk puts you to sleep.

___ True ___False ___ ZZZZZZZZZ

ANSWER: True, Stern says. Milk contains a chemical known as tryptophan. However, some foods, such as cheddar, avocados, some imported beers, and bologna or salami, can keep you awake. Other sleep tips include never oversleeping. Get up about the same time everyday even if you had trouble sleeping. And try to get to bed at around the same time every evening.

9: Chocolate causes acne.

___ True ____ False ___ Who cares, it tastes good!

ANSWER: False. Stern says the link between chocolate intake and acne outbreaks has been broken. Another study, however, showed that stress can cause outbreaks. Acne forms when the oil glands make too much sebum, a waxy substance that along with dead skin cells can clog pores. Bacteria grow and irritate the blocked pore given the red and swollen look to them. Too much harsh washing can further inflame the area. Doctors have many tools to attack and control acne these days. Some birth control pills even promise to improve acne.

10: Teething causes a fever.

___ True ____ False ____ Look for another cause.

ANSWER: False. Stern says studies have shown that symptoms such as fever and diarrhea may make teething babies more miserable but have not been triggered by the teething. "No correlation with tooth eruption," she says. In fact, she adds, if the teething baby has a fever, you might want to look for another cause in addition to adding choppers.

Feel smarter? Those old wives over there are looking pretty smug.

Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based outside of Phoenix.

Originally published March 25, 2004.

Medically updated March 25, 2005

SOURCES: Loraine Stern, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics professor, UCLA. Mary J. O'Sullivan, MD, vice chair, ob-gyn, University of Miami. web site. Nutrition Farm web site. Indiana University. "The Real Truth About Health Myths," Better Homes & Gardens, January 1998. The University of Arkansas.

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Last Editorial Review: 4/11/2005