Parenting: doing it right is uppermost in everyone’s mind and don’t authors and booksellers know it! So do all our well-meaning friends and relatives who shower us with free advice, complete with oft-told old wives’ tales.
Never sure whether or not to subscribe to all that “wisdom” and act accordingly, many of us seek the professional advice of our pediatricians.
Only they might not have all the right answers.
So says Dr. Andrew Adesman, a pediatrician at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and author of Babyfacts: The Truth about Your Child’s Health from Newborn through Preschool. For his study, he and his team sent out questionnaires to 5,000 board-certified American pediatricians and heard back from 1,002 of them. Of the 48 questions posed, 34 were so-called myths, while the rest were all true statements. The doctors’ responses—true, likely true, unsure, likely false, or false—should give us pause.
Dr. Adesman acknowledges that most old wives’ tales are harmless—and that, like the rest of us, many pediatricians buy into them, too. For instance:
• 9% believe that sleeping with a night light on causes nearsightedness.
• 11% believe sugar causes hyperactivity.
• 15% believe we should wait 30 minutes after eating to swim.
• 17% believe vitamin C helps ward off colds.
• 33% believe wounds heal more quickly when exposed to air.
The good news is that we parents can either heed such advice—or not—at no risk. The bad news, though, is that some long-held beliefs actually pose serious threats to our children’s well-being. For example, Dr. Adesman discovered that of the 1,002 respondents . . .
1. 3% said it’s fine to give honey to babies younger than 6 months; doing so can actually cause paralyzing botulism poisoning.
2. 5% said an ice bath can help reduce a fever; in reality, doing so can cause hypothermia, with the body temperature falling below 95.0 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. 5% said aspirin can safely be given to children over 6 years of age; however, that can trigger Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.
4. 33% said it’s advisable to treat burns with an application of ice; in fact, that can cause hypothermia and/or damage skin.
5. 33% said it’s safe to put a baby down to sleep on his/her side; do so and possibly risk crib death.
Best bet: play it safe by double-checking well-meaning advice—even from your child’s pediatrician–stay well-informed, and read the detailed summary of Dr. Adesman’s revealing study.