Welcome to the Urban Legends archive page.
Asthma and the Athlete - Urban Legends
1. If I have asthma, I can’t play sports because it will make it worse. Physical activity should always be a part of a child’s regular routine, asthma or not. Optimize the management of asthma, and there will be no problem participating in sports.
2. I only need an inhaler when I’m active, that can’t really be asthma. Untrue. Exercise-induced asthma is the type of asthma diagnosed in a person who typically has symptoms lasting up to 60 minutes after exercise. It is a real diagnosis, requiring real treatment. Don’t ignore signs in your child of excessive coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing after physical activity.
3. Shortness of breath is normal with exercise. I shouldn’t be concerned. This is dangerous. If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, it should never go untreated. Progression to respiratory failure can happen. Be sure to keep an inhaler on hand whenever there is physical exercise.
4. Steroids for asthma stunt growth. The inhaled steroids used to treat asthma have not been shown to cause a sustained delay in growth. Untreated asthma however, does stunt growth. Be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about any concerns you may have regarding treatment. Never allow asthma to go untreated.
5. The treatment for asthma is the same for everybody. The severity of asthma varies greatly from person to person, as does its treatment. Be sure your doctor has provided you with your own asthma action plan, specific to your level of severity.
Binge Drinking-Urban Legends
1. Drinking a 6-pack of beer is an average amount. This is by no means average. The definition of binge drinking is more than four drinks at a sitting, or per occasion. Binge drinking is excessive alcohol consumption and can lead to serious health, social, and lifestyle consequences as a result.
2. If I don’t drink everyday then the amount I drink is not a problem. This is a common myth and is false! Whether you consume alcohol daily or not, the risk of binge drinking, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism still exists.
3. Binge drinking is all in good fun, it cannot kill. This is not true. In addition to the violent crimes and drunk driver fatalities that are associated with binge drinking, acute alcohol poisoning unfortunately has fatal outcomes many times per year. If you do consume alcohol, you must do so responsibly.
4. Everyone has the same tolerance to alcohol. This is untrue. Each person responds to alcohol in their body in a different way. There are many factors including weight, body metabolism, and body chemistry that determine how much alcohol each person can consume before dangerous levels are reached.
Birth Control-Urban Legends
1. If I am on birth control pills, I have to finish the pack before starting a new form of birth control. This is not true. It is possible to change your birth control at any time during the pack of the month. When beginning a new pack of pills though, it is necessary to always start with the first pill in the pack.
2. I had a lot of side effects with one type of birth control pill, so I won’t be able to use any form of birth control. This is a popular myth and so untrue! There are many variations of birth control and it is possible that there is a particular combination that works best for you. Finding the right birth control can sometimes be trial and error.
3. I have to wait to get my period before switching birth control methods. This is a common myth. Switching birth control methods will often cause temporary changes in your menstrual cycle and the timing of your period. It is not necessary to wait for your period to start a new birth control method or to stop the old one. This can be done at any time.
4. When switching from the birth control pill to the Depo shot, as long as I get the shot the day I stop my pills, I won’t get pregnant. This is untrue. It is necessary to get the Depo shot seven days before stopping birth control pills for it to be effective immediately.
5. All types of birth control can prevent sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STI). This is not true. The only form of birth control that is proven effective in preventing the transmission of most STDs and STIs is the condom. It is always best to use a condom when you have sex.
Breast Cancer Awareness- Urban Legends
1. Most women get breast cancer after age 50. This has not been the trend particularly in the African American community. 33% of African American women diagnosed with breast cancer are under age 50, 10% are under age 40.
2. I have no family history of breast cancer. I don’t need to worry about it. While we know there is a hereditary component to breast cancer, only 15-20% of breast cancer diagnoses are in women with a family history. Everyone, regardless of family history should be screened.
3. If I had breast cancer, I would have a painful lump. Often times, breast cancer is painless. The goal is to diagnose breast cancer early enough for the best chance of treatment. During its earliest stages, breast cancer is often not even palpable and only detected through mammography.
4. Mammograms are painful. Unfortunately some women have had some bad experiences, but mammograms are not generally painful. The entire experience is definitely technician dependent. If you have had a poor experience, try another mammography screening location, but don’t STOP getting mammograms.
5. I’m uninsured. There’s no way I can afford a mammogram. There are free mammogram programs across the country. If you are having a hard time locating one, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 for help.
6. Men can’t get breast cancer. This is a misconception that is rampant. Men can in fact develop breast cancer, although it is not as common. If the men in your life have noticed any changes in their breast tissue, encourage them to talk to their doctor.
Childhood Obesity-Urban Legends
1. Snacking causes obesity. This is not true. Snacking is recommended for any healthy diet. It helps to curb hunger, promote weight loss, and encourage weight maintenance. Nutritious snacks are the key to a healthy diet.
2. Drinks are not a factor in childhood obesity, just poor food choices. This is a common myth and is false! There are many factors contributing to obesity including calorie-rich juices and other beverages. Drinks are often overlooked when it comes to total daily calorie intake. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda, juices, and whole milk. Instead opt for water, or low fat milk.
3. There is no link between childhood obesity and sleep. Recent studies have shown that children who don’t get a full night’s sleep are more likely to overeat and develop obesity. On average, children need 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
4. It is better to eat fewer meals to prevent childhood obesity. This is false. Skipping meals leads to overeating and increases the risk of obesity. Three nutritious meals with healthy snacks in between have been shown to promote a healthy weight and weight maintenance.
1. Everyone develops dementia if they live long enough. This is completely false. While it is normal to experience some memory loss with aging, the memory loss seen with dementia is progressive and only one of many symptoms that establishes a diagnosis of dementia. If you are concerned about your memory loss or that of a loved one, seek the help of your primary care provider.
2. Dementia is not serious, it is not life threatening. Dementia is a very serious condition and when it progresses it can be life threatening. In severe cases of dementia the patient may begin to experience difficulty with some of the more basic activities of daily living including bathing and eating. It is not uncommon that patients forget to eat, leading to malnourishment. Patients in advanced stages often develop swallowing difficulties which can lead to breathing problems and pneumonia.
3. No one in my family has dementia so I have nothing to worry about. While some forms of dementia are believed to have a genetic (inherited) component, this is not true of all forms of dementia. Certain forms of dementia have more to do with lifestyle and other medical conditions that an individual may have. Excessive alcohol ingestion, drug use, uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and heart disease are all potential risk factors that may lead to vascular dementia. Additionally thyroid disease and certain vitamin deficiencies may lead to dementia.
4. Once someone is diagnosed with dementia it is downhill from there. This is not necessarily true. Some forms of dementia are reversible if the underlying medical issue causing the dementia is treated effectively. In the case of irreversible dementia, some medications may slow the progression of the disease to a point where the patient doesn’t lose any more function than at the time of diagnosis.
Dental First Aid-Urban Legends
1. If I have a toothache I can just put aspirin on it. This is dangerous. Never place aspirin directly on the tooth and gums. It is possible to cause much more damage to the gum and surrounding tissues by placing aspirin directly on the tooth or gums. Aspirin is an acid and if left in contact with the tooth and gums can cause burns.
2. If a tooth is knocked out, there is no chance of reattaching it. This is a popular myth and so untrue! If you act quickly and seek the attention of a dentist right away, there is a strong likelihood that the tooth can be reattached. If a tooth is knocked out, immediately place it in milk or water to keep it moist and contact your dentist right away!
3. Cold sores are normal. I don’t need to be concerned about them. This is a common myth. While the occasional cold or canker sore is common, if there are recurrent episodes or severe outbreaks, it may be a symptom of a much more serious problem. There are some diseases and illness that have cold sores as a presenting symptom. Talk to your doctor or dentist if you are concerned about frequent cold sores.
4. If I think I have jaw injury, I should keep moving it to make sure it isn’t broken. This is untrue. If there is a possibility of a broken jaw it is always best to keep the jaw immobilized to prevent further injury. Seek medical attention immediately.
Diet and Nutrition-Urban Legends
1. I’m young and healthy. There is no need to worry about my diet and nutrition right now. This can’t be further from the truth. NOW is the time to focus on healthy eating and lifestyle habits while you’re young. It’s always important to properly nourish your body. Poor diets and nutritional habits in your youth can lead to a lifetime of consequences and health issues. There’s no greater time than now.
2. Brown sugar is better for you than white sugar. This is not true. Brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses added to it. There is no significant benefit to using brown sugar over white sugar in meals or with cooking. Pure cane sugar in its raw form has the most nutritional value, containing multiple vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that all forms of sugar can lead to a rise in blood glucose and should be used with caution.
3. Certain foods are good for fat burning. This is a common misconception. A lot fruits and vegetables have been labeled fat-burning and are the basis of several “fad diets”. These foods don’t cause weight loss by burning calories, the weight loss occurs by simply reducing the total calorie intake. If you burn off more calories than you take in each day, you will lose weight-regardless of the type of food eaten. There are no “calorie burning” foods.
4. “Natural” and herbal weight loss medicines are safe. No medicine or treatment is without side effects. It is important to consult with your physician before beginning any new treatment or weight loss regimen. Be sure to discuss all medications both prescribed and over-the-counter with your healthcare provider to ensure there are no contraindications or potential for risk.
5. No fat, or fat-free means there are no calories. This is untrue. A food that is labeled as fat-free, can still have calories. Be sure to check the nutritional labels for the foods you are eating. Here you will find a list of all of the nutrients contained in that food item. Read your labels!
Down's Syndrome- Urban Legends
1. Down's Syndrome is a rare disease. This is not true. Trisomy 21, the genetic defect that leads to Down's Syndrome is the most common genetic disorder. 1 in 700 births is a Down's Syndrome child.
2. People with Down's Syndrome are unable to function due to mental retardation. Most people with Down's Syndrome have only mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Many are able to go to school, to work, play sports, and participate in community activities as any other person.
3. Most Down's Syndrome children are born to older parents. This is a common myth. 80% of Down's Syndrome children are born to mothers younger than 35. While it is true that the incidence of a Down's Syndrome birth increases with age, the majority of Down's Syndrome children are born to younger parents.
4. Down's Syndrome children don't live long. Overall, the life expectancy for Down's Syndrome children has greatly improved with medical advances. However, there is a large racial divide in survival rates. By age 20, Blacks are more than 7 times as likely to die from Down's Syndrome complications than other groups. Each prescription for glasses is different. Some glasses may need to be worn consistently, while others may only need to be worn at specified times like reading. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the prescription when you receive it. Always follow the direction of the optometrist or ophthalmologist that prescribed the glasses so they are being used correctly.
5. Down's Syndrome children must be in special education programs. This is not true. The goal of most school systems across this country is inclusion and integration. While there are some children that will need special education classes, there are many Down's Syndrome children that are integrated in the standard classroom setting and go on to graduate from high school, and college.
6. There is no hope for a cure for Down's Syndrome. Research continues for identifying the genes that may lead to Down's Syndrome. The hope is that Down's Syndrome can be prevented in the future.
Drowning- Urban Legends
1. We have an innate ability to float, so drowning is unlikely. Yes, we do have the ability to float, but this is an intentional action only when our bodies are relaxed. Unfortunately in drowning situations, this is not the case.
2. Drowning only happens when kids are unattended. Stats show that 50-60 % of drownings are witnessed, but no one recognized the subtle signs that the victim was drowning. It is important to know what drowning looks and sounds like.
3. My child knows how to swim, I don’t have to worry about a drowning accident. Drowning can occur for a number of reasons including fatigue, overexertion, muscle cramps etc. Even the “best” swimmers need supervision.
4. I would know if someone were drowning because there will be a big commotion. Most drownings occur silently with the victim usually unable to yell for help. Once the victim has gone under water it may not be obvious that they are in trouble.
5. I will see a drowning victim waving for help. Instinctively a drowning victim will try to press down on the surface of the water to try and raise his or her head above water. This can often look like treading water, and not drowning. Unfortunately, the arms are not usually vertical or waving in the air motioning for help.
6. We don’t go to swimming pools, so I don’t have to worry about water safety. Infants and toddlers can drown in just a few inches of liquid. Buckets, bathtubs, and toilets pose a huge hazard. Never leave your child unattended.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)-Urban Legends
1. I’m getting older, it’s normal that I have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. While most cases of ED occur in men over the age of 65, it is by no means a normal part of aging. A healthy sex life has no age limit.
2. My friend was prescribed a medication for ED. It’s ok for me to use one of his pills to treat my ED. It is never a good idea to take a medication that was not prescribed to you by your personal healthcare provider. Furthermore, you may have medical conditions or be on other prescription medications that may result in negative consequences of taking some of the medications used for the treatment of ED.
3. I had difficulty achieving an erection once. This means that I have ED. ED is defined as the repeated inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. One episode of inability to perform does not establish a diagnosis of ED.
4. My other medical conditions have nothing to do with my sexual performance. This is untrue. Not only might your medical conditions contribute to your ED but the medications that you are taking to treat those conditions may also be a factor. Additionally, certain medical conditions and medicines may impact what therapies you can receive for the treatment of your ED. It’s important to discuss your complete medical history with your physician when discussing your ED.
5. I was diagnosed with ED, I must need one of the medications that I have seen advertised on television to treat my condition. There are a number of treatment options available for ED and the best treatment for you depends on the cause of your ED and your medical history. Your healthcare provider will determine the safest and most effective form of treatment for you.
Exercise and Pregnancy-Urban Legends
1. It is not advised to exercise at all during pregnancy. Assuming there are no medical or pregnancy complications, it is advised that pregnant women should maintain some level of physical activity. Always consult your physician about a safe level of exercise before starting an exercise routine while pregnant.
2. I was not active prior to pregnancy therefore I can’t start exercising now. This is a common myth and is false! It is not too late to begin an exercise routine once pregnancy occurs. There are many pregnancy, labor, and delivery benefits to an active lifestyle while pregnant.
3. I can’t do abdominal exercises while pregnant. This is not true. There are benefits to strengthening abdominal muscles that are stretched by pregnancy. Having strong abdominal muscles will help posture during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the recovery process.
4. Exercise increases the risk of miscarriage. There is no evidence that exercise increases the risk of pregnancy loss. It is always necessary to discuss your concerns about exercise in pregnancy prior to starting a routine.
Firework Safety-Urban Legends
1. Sparklers are a safe form of fireworks. This is false. All fireworks have the potential for injury if not used safely. Sparklers are a common cause for burn injuries as temperatures reach close to 2000 degrees. This temperature is hot enough to melt metal.
2. It is safe to tie firecrackers together and light them. This is a common myth and is false! It is not advised to light more than one firework product at a time. This causes the explosion to be unpredictable and can lead to injury.
3. Bottle rockets should be used with glass bottles. Never light fireworks in glass containers. The explosion can cause the glass to shatter leading to potential cuts and injuries from the glass fragments.
4. The biggest danger when using fireworks is to the person lighting the fireworks. While it is true that the risk of burns to the hands and face and the loss or severe injury to digits is greatest in the person lighting the fireworks, studies show that the bystanders are most often injured. Be sure to pay attention and keep a safe distance when observing fireworks being used.
Fungal Infections-Urban Legends
1. A fungal infection is a sign of poor hygiene. This is false. Fungi naturally live on human skin. When the conditions are moist, warm, and dark, it can cause an overgrowth of fungus and lead to an infection. It is not caused by dirt, or lack of cleanliness.
2. It is not possible for me to have athlete’s foot if my feet are not itchy. This is a common myth and is false! Acute athlete’s foot infections are typically itchy, whereas chronic athlete’s foot can simply present with cracked, scaly, or fissured skin. Whether you consume alcohol daily or not, the risk of binge drinking, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism still exists.
3. Fungal nail infections are often times serious. This is not true. Often times, fungal infections of the nail are purely a cosmetic concern. Occasionally in those who have other medical conditions, or in whom the destruction of the nail is severe, it may lead to bacterial infections requiring prompt treatment.
4. Fungal infections of the nail can be treated by over-the-counter antifungal creams. Fungal nail infections are not easily treated by topical medications and typically require prescription oral medication. However, some over-the-counter treatments such as antiseptic soaks, and menthol containing chest rub creams have proven to treat the infection. Talk with your doctor about a treatment that is appropriate for you.
Gout- Urban Legends
1. Gout is rare. This can’t be further from the truth. An estimated 5 million people are currently living with gout. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men over age 40.
2. Gout is a “rich man’s” disease. This used to be the perception simply because it was thought to be associated with gluttony, but stats show that all groups are affected by this disease. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms regardless of your socioeconomic status.
3. If left untreated, gout will go away on its own. While each attack may only last a few days, the underlying cause of gout will remain if untreated. This puts you at risk for repeated gout attacks. If joints are subjected to multiple gouty attacks, joint damage and deformity can result. It’s important to treat gout and prevent any further attacks.
4. I don’t have to worry about gout because I don’t overeat. Overeating can be a factor in gout attacks, but there are many other risk factors associated with developing gout.
5. Once a gout attack starts, there’s nothing I can do. This is NOT true. There are medicines you can take at the first signs of a gout flare to stop them from progressing. Talk to your doctor about the best medicine for you to take.
6. I need to lose weight to prevent gout attacks. Yes and No. There is an association with obesity and increased risk of gout attacks, so having a healthy weight is preferred. Weight loss should be under the supervision of a physician though, because rapid weight loss can actually increase uric acid levels in the blood leading to more attacks.
Health Club Safety-Urban Legends
1. Cleaners, disinfectants, and sanitizers all work the same way. This is not true. Cleaners simply lift germs, dirt, and grime from a surface so that they can be rinsed away with water. This is the principle behind soap. Disinfectants on the other hand have properties that actually kill or destroy the germs and prevent them from growing. They have no effect on dirt or grime. Sanitizers are used to reduce the number of germs on a surface to an acceptable or “safe” level. They do not completely rid the surface of germs.
2. I don’t need a partner when lifting weights. This is a popular myth and so untrue! It is never wise to work out or do strength training alone. Everyone is at risk of unexpected muscle fatigue after a rigorous session. Always make sure someone is nearby in case of emergency.
3. I have used health club equipment before and I don’t need assistance when working out. This is a common myth. It is always a good idea to know the proper form and technique to use when using exercise equipment. Never assume you know how to appropriately use a piece of equipment if you have not been instructed how to do so.
4. I haven’t worked out in a few years, but I can pick up where I left off. This is not a good idea. It is always best to consult your primary care physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine. Additionally, you should always start with the basics and increase your activity and intensity by no more than 15% per week. This will help to prevent injuries to muscles and joints that haven’t been fully utilized in a while.
1. There is a cure for HIV/AIDS. This is untrue. While research is ongoing, there is still no cure at this time. Due to great strides and advancements in medical treatments, often time medications can help to control the virus and slow the progression of HIV, but there is no cure for the disease. There also is no “virgin cure” whereby having sex with a virgin cures HIV. Once infected and HIV positive, the virus always lives in the body.
2. All you have to do is take a pill now, and it's not as dangerous as it used to be. This can’t be farther from the truth. In fact, even with the advancements in treatments HIV is just as dangerous, and just as deadly as when it was first discovered. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 18,000 people die as a result of HIV/AIDS in this country every year. There are approximately 56,300 new HIV infections in the U.S. every year.
3. Women cannot transmit the virus to men. This is false. There have been many well documented cases of HIV positive women infecting men with the virus. Vaginal fluids and menstrual blood are potential sources of HIV infection.
4. HIV is really only impacting people in Africa, but the epidemic is pretty much over in the US. It is estimated that over 1 million people are living with HIV in this country. Over 21%, or 1 in 5 of those infected and living with the disease in this country are not even aware of their HIV positive status. HIV remains a huge health concern worldwide.
5. Only promiscuous people and drug users get HIV. Anyone having unprotected sex is at risk of becoming infected with HIV. The number of sexual partners or level of “promiscuity” is not a factor in determining if you are at risk. The more people you have unprotected sex with, the more opportunities there are to become infected. But the risk of infection is the same for everyone. Sharing needles is also a source of infection for HIV.
6. You can take an AIDS test. There is no “AIDS” test. The tests that are available are HIV antibody tests. These are tests determining if you have been exposed to the HIV virus which we know can lead to AIDS if it progresses. Regular screenings with prompt diagnosis of an HIV positive infection and appropriate treatment can slow the risk of progression to other HIV related diseases and AIDS.
HPV and Pap Smear-Urban Legends
1. My teen is not sexually active but is going to get birth control pills to regulate her period. She has been afraid to go because she will have a pap smear at her doctor’s visit. This is a concern that most teens and parents have and often time delays the doctor’s visit unnecessarily. There is NO need for a pap smear in a teen that has not been sexually active.
2. I tell my teen to always use condoms if sexually active. This will prevent ALL sexually transmitted diseases and infections including HPV. This is not true. There are many infections transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. These include HPV-the virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as HSV-the virus that causes genital herpes. Condoms do not fully protect against exposure to these viruses as there are still genital areas that remain uncovered. Your teen should know that the only way to truly prevent ALL sexually transmitted diseases and infections is through abstinence.
3. My daughter was offered the HPV vaccine but she doesn’t need it, she is only 11. This is a common misconception. Lots of parents are having a hard time vaccinating their young children against a virus that is only sexually transmitted. This is completely understandable. However, the goal is to vaccinate well before sexual activity occurs to offer the best chance for protection.
4. It is not necessary to visit a gynecologist until you have been sexually active. It is actually best to start visiting a gynecologist between the ages of 13-15. The point is not for pelvic exams and pap smears, but just to introduce a young lady to the routine of annual visits to assess female health. This is a healthy habit that will last a lifetime.
5. The HPV vaccine will prevent cervical cancer so Pap smears will no longer be necessary. This is untrue. While the vaccines are highly effective, they don’t protect against all strains of cancer causing HPV, only the most common. It is still important to have annual exams if sexually active.
Kidney Disease-Urban Legends
1. If I had kidney disease I would know it. This may not be the case. There are often times no signs or symptoms of the early stages of kidney disease. It is therefore important to have the proper screenings for kidney disease especially if you have risk factors. The risk factors for developing kidney disease include a family history of kidney disease, a history of diabetes, or high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease.
2. Once you have kidney disease there is nothing you can do about it. This can’t be farther from the truth. If discovered at its early stages, the likelihood of kidney failure can be delayed or prevented altogether.
3. There is no test for kidney disease. This is false. The function of the kidneys can be measured through urine tests, and blood tests. Blood pressure testing can also be helpful in detecting changes in kidney function.
4. Kidney disease is rare. Kidney disease is quite common. It is estimated that over 26 million people are living with chronic kidney disease country. There are countless others at increased risk of developing it. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure of your risk.
5. There is nothing I can do to prevent kidney disease. This is untrue. The two leading causes of kidney disease in African Americans are diabetes and high blood pressure. Living a healthy lifestyle, and keeping these diseases under control if present, is the key to preventing kidney disease.
1. There is no treatment for lupus. While there is no cure, there are plenty of treatments available to help with the symptoms of the disease and to help prevent “flare ups”. If you have a diagnosis of lupus, be sure to consult with your rheumatologist to make sure your treatment regimen is effective for you.
2. Women with lupus should never get pregnant. This is not true. While some women with lupus do have difficulty getting pregnant, or may suffer some lupus related pregnancy complications, an overwhelming majority of women with lupus go on to have successful pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Be sure to consult with your physician if you are considering pregnancy to make sure you are at your best health prior to conception.
3. Lupus is a disease that only affects women. This is a common misconception. While an estimated 90% of lupus patients are female, there are some men that suffer from lupus as well. Anyone with symptoms of unexplained joint pain, rash, fatigue, blood clots, etc. should be checked for lupus.
4. If I am not currently having symptoms of my lupus, I don’t need to take any medicine for it. This is not true. Lupus is a disease that can affect many areas of the body both internally and externally. Often times there can be high levels of inflammation well before symptoms are seen. It is never a good idea to stop your treatment without discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider, even if you aren’t having any symptoms.
Migraine Headache-Urban Legends
1. I have never had a migraine therefore I am not at risk. This is untrue. Migraines can develop at any stage in life from childhood throughout adulthood. People at higher risk of developing migraines are those with a family history of migraines, women, and those experiencing hormonal fluctuation.
2. Men do not get migraine headaches. This is not true. While women are affected at rates of up to three times higher, men are certainly prone to developing migraines.
3. Children do not get migraines. It is actually estimated that 10% of children have migraine headaches. If your child is complaining of recurring headache symptoms, be sure to discuss your concern with their doctor as it may require treatment.
4. There is no treatment for migraine, I have to sleep it off. There are a variety of treatments available to treat and prevent migraine headaches. It is possible to live a life relatively migraine free with the appropriate treatment. If you are having chronic headaches, talk to your doctor about your options.
5. Stress causes migraines. Stress will not cause a person to develop migraines, but it can be a trigger in those that already suffer from migraines. It is important to not only avoid stress, but also to get adequate sleep to aid in the prevention of the onset of migraines.
MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus)-Urban Legends
1. If I had MRSA I would know it. This is not necessarily true. Up to 2% of the population has MRSA living in and on their body. Unless an individual develops an infection, they may not know that they are “colonized” with the bacteria.
2 .“Popping pimples” or “lancing” boils is safe as long as I sterilize a needle. You should NEVER take measures into your own hands. Always seek the help of a medical professional to treat these lesions. You may be making matters much worse in an attempt to treat yourself.
3. Once my infection looks better I can stop taking my antibiotics. Absolutely not! You should take all of the medication given to you as directed to ensure that your infection has resolved. Just because you no longer see physical evidence of the infection doesn’t mean that it has resolved.
4. Once I have been treated, I no longer have to worry about MRSA infection. Quite the contrary. Once you have been diagnosed with a MRSA infection it is likely that you will remain a carrier or are considered "colonized" with the bacteria. In fact it is your responsibility to inform your healthcare provider of your history of MRSA infection so that they can take the necessary precautions to decrease the risk of spread.
5. MRSA infection is not that serious. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to a 2007 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 94,360 individuals developed “serious” MRSA infections in 2005 and approximately 18,650 people died during a hospital stay related to these serious MRSA infections. MRSA was responsible for more deaths than related to AIDS in that same time period. MRSA is very serious and we all need to take a stand to decrease its prevalence in the community.
Premature Birth- Urban Legends
1. Premature birth is just an issue for moms carrying multiple babies (twins, triplets etc.) This is not true. Premature births occur in about 13% of all pregnancies.
2. All premature babies have a lifetime of medical problems. The delivery and subsequent Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) course is different for each premature baby that may be born. Some babies have a short road to recovery, others a bit longer. The majority of babies born prematurely go on to lead lives very similar to those of full term babies.
3. Exercising during pregnancy causes premature birth. Exercise is generally encouraged throughout pregnancy if it is a continuation of a pre-pregnancy exercise routine. It is advised to consult your doctor about starting any new exercise routines in pregnancy. If you have any questions about your ability to exercise while pregnant consult your doctor.
4. I can’t bond with my premature baby while they are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This can’t be further from the truth. Studies show that premature babies actually recover faster and have shorter NICU stays when the parents bond with them. If physical cuddling or kangaroo care aren’t possible because the baby isn’t stable enough, singing to the baby, and/or speaking healing words of faith, love, and affirmation are vital.
5. I can’t breastfeed if I have a premature baby. This is so untrue! Often times depending on how premature the delivery, or if the infant is unstable in any way, they may not be immediately able to latch to breastfeed. However, it is still a good idea to pump and store the breast milk for the time when they are stable enough to eat. The healing and nutritional properties of breast milk are enormous.
Prenatal Vitamins- Urban Legends
1. All prenatal vitamins cause constipation. While it is true that some prenatal vitamins can cause some constipation and/or stomach upset, this is not true of all. The major ingredient in them causing constipation is iron. There are some vitamin formulations that have high iron content or even an added iron supplement. If you are experiencing trouble tolerating your vitamin, please don’t stop taking them. Talk with your doctor about some other vitamin options that may be available to you.
2. If I am healthy and eat properly, I don’t need prenatal vitamins. This might be true in an ideal world, but an estimated 80% in the U.S. are not meeting the recommended daily nutrients in their diet. Eating properly is equally as important as taking your prenatal vitamins.
3. I don’t need to take prenatal vitamins until after my first doctor’s visit. This can’t be further from the truth. Prenatal vitamins should ideally be taken for at least 3-6 months prior to pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can help to prevent many birth defects associated with vitamin deficiencies especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The neural tube begins forming around week 3-4, typically before a woman knows she is pregnant.
4. Prenatal vitamins are too big to swallow. This may be a real issue for some people. However, you may need to talk to your doctor about a chewable preparation that is suitable if you are having difficulty swallowing your vitamin.
5. I need a prescription to take prenatal vitamins. Fortunately, a lot of prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter making them easy to find. There are some preparations that require a prescription. Ask your doctor if you need a special preparation for any reason.
6. Prenatal vitamins cause morning sickness. While it is true that some women experience some nausea or constipation when taking them, prenatal vitamins do not cause morning sickness. Morning sickness is due to pregnancy hormones. If you are experiencing added nausea and you think it may be due to your vitamin, consider taking the vitamin at night or talking to your doctor about a different preparation.
Preventive Medicine and Screening Test-Urban Legends
1. I was screened for high blood pressure and diabetes once before and was fine. I don’t need to be screened again. A negative screening in the past does not mean you are not at risk for developing disease in the future. Depending on the disease being tested for and your risk factors for developing that disease, you may need to be screened at least once a year or more. Have a health risk assessment performed and discuss your need for screening tests with your primary health provider.
2. There aren’t screening tests for cancer. This is not true. While there aren’t screening tests for every disease, there are screening tests in place for some of the diseases with very high death rates in the Black community. These include mammograms for breast cancer, PSA and rectal exams for prostate cancer, and colonoscopies for colon cancer.
3. I’m in my 20’s and healthy. I don’t need to visit my doctor because screenings don’t start until middle age. This is a common misconception and it is simply not true. Screenings can begin at any age depending on your personal risk factors. For example, blood pressure screenings start at age 18 in those that are healthy, with no risk factors. In those with risk factors such as obesity, or a strong family history of high blood pressure it can start even earlier. Even if healthy, regular visits to the doctor are necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
4. I must be healthy because I feel fine and have no symptoms of disease. This is not true. Often times the onset of disease can be gradual before symptoms appear. Screening tests are designed to detect diseases in this critical early stage. Make sure you know which screening tests you need and have them done in a timely manner.
5. I was in the emergency room twice in the last year and they ran lots of tests. I must have had my screening tests done then. This is not necessarily true. Screening tests are generally initiated by primary care providers and not in the emergency room or urgent care settings. Establish a relationship with a primary care physician for your preventive health care needs.
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (PFB) - Urban Legends
Here a few basic myths, that we have all heard sitting around the barber shop. Let’s get to the truth!
1. It is caused by “dirty clippers”. This is actually not the case. The cause of the rash is the curly patterned hair growing back into the skin causing an inflammatory response. While it is possible to get many infections from “dirty clippers” such as ringworm, or superficial bacterial infections, PFB is not something you can “catch”.
2. It is an infection. PFB is not an infection. However, if left untreated it can progress to Folliculitis Barbae which is in fact a bacterial infection. The inflammatory response of PFB can cause so much itching, leading to scratching and skin breakdown. Where there is skin breakdown of any type, infection can result. Infection is typically noted by red, pus-filled bumps instead of the characteristic dark or flesh-colored bumps of PFB.
3. Only dark-skinned men are affected by it. This can’t be further from the truth. PFB has more to do with hair curl pattern than skin tone. Anyone with curly hair can suffer from it.
4. Shaving with a disposable razor and/or getting a closer shave prevents it. A close shave actually causes PFB. As the hairs try to grow back in length, they grow back into the skin causing the problem.
5. It won’t happen as long as I use shaving cream. This is not the case. While it is true that softening the hairs with warm water may help to result in a duller, rounded tip to the hair, there is no evidence that shaving cream prevents PFB.
6. Daily shaving prevents PFB. This is not true, it actually can make it worse. If the hairs are constantly cut short and not given the opportunity to gain length above the surface of the skin, you are perpetuating the problem.
7. PFB is normal, no big deal. UNTRUE. This is not normal, and if left untreated can lead to disfigurement through keloid formation and permanent scarring. Please see your doctor, there are many treatments to help you.
1. Sarcoidosis is rare. This is untrue. Clinicians are finding that it may be even more common than once believed. Because it is a disease that is believed to be often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, it is hard to have a true measure of the prevalence of sarcoidosis. However, most estimate that 40 in 100,000 Blacks are living with sarcoidosis.
2. Sarcoidosis only affects the lungs. This is not true. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can affect virtually any part of the body. The eyes, kidneys, heart, brain, nerves, thyroid gland, skin, lymph nodes, reproductive system, joints and muscles, the liver and spleen can all be affected by sarcoidosis. The lungs are still most commonly affected, with over 90% of sarcoidosis patients having some level of lung involvement.
3. I’m young and therefore don’t need to be concerned about sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is actually a disease most frequently diagnosed in those 20-40 years old. It is generally more common for the symptoms of the disease to manifest in this age group. While it has been diagnosed in those over 40, often times it is because of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis for many years.
4. Sarcoidosis has a cure. Unfortunately we are still in search of a cure. Although there is ongoing sarcoidosis research, a cause or cure has yet to be determined.
5. Sarcoidosis is not deadly. This disease can certainly be fatal. It is estimated that 5% of sarcoidosis patients die as a direct result of inflammatory changes caused by the disease. However, many more sarcoidosis patients go on succumb to the disease as an indirect result of its complications or from its treatments. A diagnosis of sarcoidosis should always be taken seriously.
Section 504 (School Health)-Urban Legends
1. All children with chronic illnesses that miss school due to their illness should be held back and made to repeat the school year. This is not true. All children with health related absences due to a documented chronic medical condition should have accommodations made to ensure promotion to the next grade. There should be adequate time give to complete coursework and assignments missed due to health related absences.
2. When children need medicines at school, they have to stay home. This is a common myth and is false! All children have a right to attend school regardless of their health status. Your child’s Section 504 Plan will indicate if your child’s medicines will be administered by staff or self-administered by the student with supervision.
3. Children with asthma can’t carry their inhalers with them at school. This is not true. Those children capable and fully skilled at using their inhalers are allowed to carry them and use them as needed.
4. If a child has a known seizure disorder and has a seizure at school, they have to see their doctor before they can return. This is untrue. Through the Section 504 Plan an Emergency Plan is developed for those students that may have seizure activity at school and they are not required to see their doctor for each seizure before returning to school.
Smoking- Urban Legends
1. After smoking cigarettes for many years there is no point in quitting because there is too much damage done already. This is not true. There is always a benefit in smoking cessation. There is not only an immediate health benefit after quitting, but the risk of many health effects continues to decreases the longer you are a non-smoker.
2. Nicotine causes cancer. Nicotine is the chemical found in cigarettes that makes them very addictive. However, the tars and many other toxins found in cigarettes cause the increased risk of cancer.
3. Smoking cigars, hand-rolled cigarettes, bidis, hookahs, and herbal cigarettes is safer than regular cigarettes. This is false. There is no such thing as a safe or healthy cigarette. All forms of smoking are harmful and highly addictive.
4. Smoking is only a health risk to the person who smokes. This can’t be further from the truth. Studies show that second-hand smoke exposure can be just as dangerous as being a smoker yourself. It is not only responsible for heart disease, cancer, and an increased risk for respiratory infections in infants and children, but it can also severely affect the birth weight of infants when pregnant women are exposed, and cause more breathing difficulty in people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
5. If I stop smoking it will cause me to gain weight. This is a big reason some people choose not to quit. While it is true that some people gain 5-10 pounds on average after quitting, this is preventable. As your body adjusts to the changes of living smoke free, sometimes nicotine cravings can be mistaken for hunger causing people to eat more often. Exercising and choosing healthy snacks are a good way to combat the fear of weight gain. You’ll also feel much better and increase your body’s metabolism.
Stress- Urban Legends
1. Stress is normal and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. While potentially stressful things and events are prevalent, our response to them is what determines our “stress level”. We can prevent some of the stress we experience by avoiding the stressors that we can, or by changing our reaction to the stressors that we can’t.
2. Stress shows up the same way in everyone. This is untrue. Many may have physical manifestations of their stress (physical aches and pain, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches), while others may have a more psychological manifestation (depression, anxiety, anger etc.) Every person’s response to stress is different, and it differs in the same individual depending on the stressor.
3. I don’t have any major symptoms of stress, so I must not have it. There can certainly be an unhealthy amount of stress before major health symptoms appear. If you are using alcohol, and/or drugs regularly you may be self-treating stress in your life. If you are experiencing minor symptoms of stress, these may be the warning signs that things are starting to get out of control and it is the best time to reevaluate stressors in your life.
4. If I ignore the symptoms of stress, they will eventually go away. Stress will not go away on its own. It takes a conscious effort by you to change the stressors in your life. Ignoring the signs of stress may lead to worsening of the manifestations of stress. Take the time to address these issues today, before it is too late.
5. Stress is necessary to perform well. This can’t be further from the truth. There is a distinct difference between stress and motivation. Having goals and pushing yourself to reach them can be considered motivating factors. Experiencing anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and extreme frustration while trying to accomplish a goal is considered stress and often times leads to poor performance. For some who are still able to reach their goals under these circumstances, it is often times in spite of stress, not because of stress.
1. It is impossible to prevent a stroke. This is untrue. The majority of strokes are largely preventable. By treating risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, and by acting on precursor signs and symptoms, the devastating effects of stroke can be prevented.
2. Strokes can only occur in older people. This is a common misconception. Anyone can be affected by stroke. While the majority of strokes do occur in the elderly, in the Black community as compared to Whites, the likelihood of stroke is over 2.5 times greater in those aged 20-44. While the incidence of diseases that are risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes is on the rise in those younger than 45, so is the incidence of stroke.
3. Strokes can’t be treated and there is little chance for recovery. This is not true. There is a great chance for recovery if treatment is initiated soon. Some treatments are only effective if given in the first few hours of developing symptoms. After the initial hospital course of a stroke, recovery continues. There are lots of rehabilitation programs available to help the patient regain any function that may have been lost because of the stroke.
4. If I am having symptoms of a stroke the first thing I should do is take an aspirin. This is NOT true. The FIRST THING to do is call 911! Never take an aspirin. Treatments of stroke differ depending on the cause. An aspirin can actually make a stroke worse if it is a hemorrhagic stroke. Let the medical professionals determine the cause and treatment for your stroke symptoms.
5. There is always a severe headache with a stroke. This is not necessarily true. Most strokes are not associated with any pain at all. If you are having any symptoms of stroke such as weakness, blurred vision, trouble with speech or coordination, you need to seek medical attention. Don’t ignore these symptoms because there is no headache. Strokes are most often painless.
Teen Depression-Urban Legends
1. Depression looks the same in teens as it does in adults. This is untrue. The manifestation of depression in teenagers can often time vary greatly from adults. While sadness, withdrawal, and an overall slowing of thoughts and actions are often associated with adult depression, teens can have symptoms of increased aggression, anger, rage and agitation. Make sure you aren’t missing the signs of a hopeless teen by looking for a sad teen.
2. My teen would tell me if he or she were depressed. This is not true. It is often times hard for an adult to recognize when they are suffering from depression. It’s even harder for a teenager or adolescent. They are often struggling to even understand the emotions they are feeling, let alone the causes for those emotions. Take an interest in physical or behavior changes of the teen in your life and take action immediately.
3. Mood swings are just a normal part of being a teen. While it is true that adolescence is a difficult time for both parents and teens that are navigating the transition into adulthood, it is never normal for your teen to have long lasting emotional or psychological changes. If your teen is persistently sad, angry, withdrawn, or is experiencing significant changes to the mood or behavior, seek the help of a professional.
4. Symptoms of depression in my teen will go away on its own. It is never OK to assume that symptoms of depression will resolve on its own. Always seek the professional help of a physician or specialist to determine the severity of depression symptoms and if treatment is necessary. Depression is a major risk factor for violence such as homicide and suicide. The CDC reports that the 3rd leading cause of death in those aged 15-24 is suicide. Don’t ever wait if you see red flags.
Thyroid Disorder-Urban Legends
1. Thyroid disease only affects older people. This is untrue. Thyroid disease can affect anyone at any age. Young women have also have a unique risk in the childbearing years. While it is slightly more common in women, men may also be affected.
2. It is impossible for me to control my weight with thyroid disease. While it is true that an underactive thyroid can cause decreased metabolism and low energy contributing to weight gain, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight when the disease is under control. Be sure to work closely with your doctor to ensure normal thyroid hormone levels, and commit to maintaining a lifestyle inclusive of a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
3. All thyroid medication is for a lifetime. This is not true. While there are some with thyroid diseases that require lifelong hormone replacement, some thyroid disorders only require temporary treatment until the condition resolves. Discuss all concerns about duration of treatment with your physician to obtain a full understanding of your treatment plan.
4. Everyone with hyperthyroidism or Grave’s Disease will get bulging eyes. This is false. Bulging eyes or exophthalmos can be a complication of Grave’s Disease but it is seen in a small percentage of patients and not in everyone.
Urgent Care vs Emergency Room-Urban Legends
1. There is no real difference between urgent care services and the emergency room. This is not true. The urgent care would be the best place for minor injuries and acute illnesses that occur after hours or on weekends. These would include things like coughs, colds, fever, or minor bumps, bruises, and sprains. The emergency room is for potentially life-threatening illnesses such as chest pain, head trauma, or difficulty breathing, just to name a few. If ever in doubt about where to go, call ahead.
2. I don’t need a primary physician. I can just use urgent care or the emergency room. This is a common myth and is false! Everyone should attempt to establish a relationship with a primary care physician. Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are for acute issues and are not equipped to handle preventive care and health maintenance issues, which are the mainstays of a healthy lifestyle.
3. Urgent care centers are equipped to handle any medical emergency. This is not true. If you are experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency, you are best served at an emergency room. If you arrive at an urgent care center, you would have to be transported to an emergency room for appropriate treatment.
4. It is cheaper for me to just go to the ER when I am sick instead of establishing with a primary care physician. This is untrue. There are many benefits to establishing with a primary care physician, including health maintenance. This is important step in preventing illnesses and diagnosing diseases before they are in advanced stages and requiring costly treatments. It is always cheaper to stay healthy rather than need the services of an ER.
1. Vaccines are no longer necessary. This is not true. Childhood vaccinations remain one of the mainstays of disease control and prevention particularly in school age children. What once were some common diseases have now been virtually eradicated in this country due to vaccinations.
2. Vaccines do more harm than good. This is a common myth and is false! While there are adverse reactions reported every year to vaccines, more than 90% of them are classified as minor, and the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks.
3. Vaccines are only necessary in childhood. This is untrue. There are several vaccines that necessary and/or initiated in adulthood. These would include the tetanus booster vaccine which is necessary every 10 years, as well as the influenza, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines to name a few.
4. My child has missed several scheduled vaccines. It is too late to restart vaccinating. This is false. There are catch-up schedules for those children who begin their vaccinations late or who miss several vaccines and need to catch-up. It is never too late. Simply talk to your child’s physician about immunizing again.
Vision Screening- Urban Legends
1. If my child is complaining about vision problems and passes the vision screening test, I shouldn’t worry. This is not true. The vision screening is not designed to catch very possible vision problem. If your child is complaining about vision problems, they need to have a full exam done.
2. Once my child passes a vision screen, there is no need to have another one. Vision screenings, even if previously normal, are to be done every couple of years to ensure there is no change. Vision problems can worsen or develop at any time.
3. Vision screenings are long and painful tests. Vision screenings are painless and tailored to your child’s educational level and ability. They are usually completed in less than 5 minutes.
4. If my child is found to need glasses, they are only for reading. Each prescription for glasses is different. Some glasses may need to be worn consistently, while others may only need to be worn at specified times like reading. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the prescription when you receive it. Always follow the direction of the optometrist or ophthalmologist that prescribed the glasses so they are being used correctly.
5. I am uninsured and can’t afford a vision screening. Most school systems and health departments will offer vision screenings free of charge. Contact your local Board of Health clinic for more information.
Vitamin D-Urban Legends
1. Vitamin D deficiency is rare. This is untrue. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly common among African Americans with some estimates as high as 80%. Many people are living with vitamin D deficiency unknowingly.
2. Vitamin D is only necessary for bone health. While vitamin D is important for bone health, there are many other functions for vitamin D. These include cardiovascular health, immune health, and neuromuscular health. It is also thought to be protective against diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.
3. Vitamin D can only be found in the diet. This is not true. While there are some limited dietary sources of vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, cereals, and eggs, Vitamin D is primarily made by the skin after exposure to sunlight. Those with very little sun exposure are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency.
4. If I had vitamin D deficiency, I would know it. This is false. Vitamin D deficiency can be asymptomatic. African Americans are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency. Therefore it is important to be screened.
Winter Weather Safety-Urban Legends
1. Only the elderly and those with fragile bones need to be concerned about falls in snow and ice. This is untrue. The elderly are certainly at high risk for more serious consequences from falls on snow and ice, but everyone needs to use caution when walking on icy surfaces. Ankle, wrist, and hip fractures, head injuries, and back strains are common injuries from these types of falls and can affect anyone. Be sure to wear proper footwear in the winter.
2. You can’t have a heart attack from shoveling snow. This is not true. In fact, the incidence of heart attack doubles during the winter season. Many shoveling snow aren’t physically fit and don’t realize how strenuous clearing the snow really is. If you have a history of heart disease, always be sure to get medical clearance before shoveling. If you develop chest pain or shortness of breath while shoveling, seek medical attention immediately.
3. Helmets are not necessary for sledding and ice skating. Helmets are actually recommended for sledding, skiing, and ice skating due to the high risk of falls and possible head injury. Attempt to break falls with arms and hands are often unsuccessful leading to a high rate of head injuries. Always practice safety first and wear a helmet.
4. If I have symptoms of frostbite I should aggressively rub my hands together and warm them in hot water. This is not true. Rewarming of frostbitten areas should always be done gently to avoid further damage. Always use WARM water to rewarm frostbitten areas and avoid cold and hot extremes. This allows for proper restoration of blood flow to the tissues and minimizes damage.
5. It is safe to ice skate on frozen ponds if the outside temperature is below freezing. It is NEVER safe to play on or near frozen ponds or lakes. It is estimated to take a thickness at least 4 inches of ice to support an average person’s weight. Regardless of the outside temperature, these ponds are usually unstable and the ice is not the same thickness throughout. Stay away from frozen ponds and lakes and avoid the risk of falling through the ice.
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