childhood myths

Debunked: These 13 facts we were told during our childhood actually aren’t true at all

Wait, you don’t really swallow eight spiders in your sleep a year?

An apple tree will grow in your stomach if you swallow the seeds, you’ll die if you get stuck in quicksand and you should always wait to go swimming after you’ve eaten. These are just some of the many myths we were told during childhood and then subsequently told our friends in the playground, at parties or in the park.

We accepted them as straight up facts and wandered around in fear of swallowing an apple seed, lest we find ourselves growing a small orchard in our large intestines. And yet as we’ve grown up we’ve come to realise that some of these myths are just that myths, probably designed by our parents to scare us into behaving.

The myths have a varying degree of possibility. There’s no way every swimming pool has sharks in the deep end, but there is a potential chance you could injure a sleepwalker if you wake them up.

So of the 13 biggest childhood myths, which are true and which are completely stupid made up lies? These are all your childhood myths debunked:

1. Will chewing gum stay in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it?

Nope. It was the fear we all had when we accidentally swallowed a piece of chewing that it would stay in our stomach for the next seven years. But in fact there is no truth to this.

It is true your stomach can’t digest chewing gum because of the gum base it is created with. However, like other foreign objects which find themselves in your stomach like a 1p coin for example, gum will find its way through your digestive tract.

It also can’t wrap itself around your heart like some people used to tell you.

2. Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis?

Nope. It may have pissed your mum off when you constantly cracked your knuckles, but she only told you it caused arthritis to get you to shut up. Arthritis is a condition, commonly associated with older age, in which there is pain and inflammation in the joints.

When you crack your knuckles or other joints the popping sound you hear is actually gas bubbles bursting in the space between the joints. And according to Harvard there is no evidence to suggest this popping or cracking will increase your chance of getting arthritis.

One doctor conducted a study in which he regularly cracked the knuckles of one of his hands over many years and did nothing to the other hand. Years later he X-Rayed both his hands and found no difference in arthritis in his hands. There have also been multiple studies over the years to support this.

3. Do dock leaves cure nettle stings?

via Pixabay

Kinda. Picture the scene – you’re on a walk through the countryside when something pricks you, it’s a stinging nettle, amid your cries your parent rushes around to find a dock leaf to cure the nettle sting and to get you to shut up.

So does it work? Technically not. A nettle sting contains irritants which are acidic, and some people claim the dock leaf works because of its alkaline sap and therefore neutralises the nettle’s acid. However, a dock leaf actually has acidic sap so whoever told you it’s alkaline needs to get their facts straight.

The main reason the dock leaf feels like it’s curing your sting is most likely to be the cooling sensation of the sap on the burning feeling of the sting.

4. Does sugar actually make us hyperactive?

Nope. It was the reason your parents gave as to why you weren’t allowed a piece of cake, but realistically there is no truth that it can make you hyper.

The main reason people have believed the myth for so long is because of one study conducted in the 1970s in which a scientist removed sugar from one child’s diet and their behaviour improved. Since then numerous studies have been conducted and none have proved sugar causes you to be more hyperactive.

5. Do you have to wait to go swimming after you’ve eaten?

Nope. The common theory over the years is if you eat something and then immediately start swimming your stomach and intestines will cramp up and cause you to drown, as the blood that is needed to pump the arm and legs whilst swimming is diverted to the stomach to aid in digestion.

However, this is absolutely not true. Whilst extra blood is supplied to the stomach it isn’t taken away or has an impact on the arms and legs.

6. Is it really dangerous to wake a sleepwalker?

Kinda. It was the fear we all had at a sleepover that one of our mates would start sleepwalking and we wouldn’t be able to wake them up as it would cause them to have a heart attack.

There is actually no truth to this at all. Whilst you will probably scare or shock the person you wake up, it is not dangerous to their health to wake them up. However, experts suggest not waking people up unless they are doing something dangerous.

7. If you pee in the pool, will the water change colour?

childhood myths

Nope. If you’ve seen the film Grown Ups you will be familiar with the scene of all the dads peeing in the pool and the water going a dark blue. This however, was purely for the movie, no such pool dye exists.

But just because you won’t be shamed for peeing by a colour, please don’t do it. The red eyes you can get after swimming in a pool doesn’t come directly from the chlorine but from the chemicals which form when the chlorine mixes with pee, sweat and dirt from swimmers.

So basically if everyone’s eyes in the pool are going slightly red, then someone has definitely peed.

8. Does spinach have any impact on your strength?

Not really. Whilst Popeye might claim you can have bulging muscles and super strength from eating loads of spinach, it’s not that simple.

Spinach is full of nitrates which can improve muscle endurance and its also full of vitamins K and A, but it’s definitely not the way to get big muscles.

9. Do carrots help you see in the dark?

Nope. The myth that carrots can help you see in the dark started out in WWII when British airmen put out the rumour they had excellent eyesight for shooting down enemy bombers because they ate carrots, not because they were using new radar technology . The Germans may have believed it and the British public certainly did as we’re still being told it today 80 years on.

Carrots contain beta-carotene which when converted by enzymes in the body becomes vitamin A which is essential for eye health. However, eating carrots won’t drastically improve your eyesight.

10. Can you actually die in quicksand?

childhood myths

via Disney

Not really. Growing up I believed the number one problem I would face in life would be falling into quicksand followed by a speedy death as it sucked me up, leaving only a hand reaching out of the pit.

Turns out this was just the movies. Quicksand is a real thing but it’s incredibly unlikely you would actually die in it if you got stuck. Quicksand, which is sand saturated with water, is denser than the human body and therefore whilst your legs may sink you won’t get sucked under it.

Also, moving in the quicksand won’t cause you to plummet to your death faster, in fact moving slowly will allow trapped water to move into cavity around the stuck limb and hopefully make it easier to release.

The only way quicksand can be legitimately dangerous is if a heavy wave or tide comes and you are unable to get out of the quicksand quick enough and therefore drown.

11. If you sneeze with your eyes open, do they pop out?

Nope. Sneezing with our eyes closed is quite literally a biological reflex and yet in school we all believed if you tried to keep them open whilst sneezing they would pop out of their sockets.

Whilst scientists aren’t 100 per cent sure why we close our eyes when we sneeze, they do know they won’t pop out if you keep them open.

12. Do you actually swallow eight spiders a year in your sleep?

Nope. I was fully convinced this was a straight up fact until a few years ago, but no we don’t swallow one or multiple spiders in our sleep.

How come? Well, first of all we’re massive to spiders so they’re pretty scared of us, and then add on that we make noise from our heartbeat and breathing whilst we sleep and we’re downright terrifying.

Whilst it is possible that in theory a spider could make its way into your mouth you’d probably feel it on your face way before it crawled inside your mouth.

13. If you swallow an apple seed will a tree grow in your stomach?

C’mon people. Obviously we know the answer is yes.

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