Unraveling medical myths


December 21, 2023

Myths are just stories we tell ourselves and others to make sense of the world around us. Myths convey beliefs or values and attempt to tell truths. In their effort to tell the truth, myths may exaggerate or misrepresent things. Sometimes this misrepresentation is innocent, while other times it is used as a tool to regulate or manipulate people. Myths can be used to give a sense of power and control over an overwhelming situation.

Of the many types of myths, ones that deal with medicine are particularly common. A person's life can feel out of control during times of sickness or injury. It is easy to feel powerless when one's body is not feeling or acting normally. A story that helps explain why this is happening can be comforting. A story can assign blame to whom or what caused this. It can also serve as a lesson or a warning to others. In every myth there is usually some small bit of truth that makes it believable.

Look at the myth "going out with wet hair will cause you to catch pneumonia." It serves as a warning; if you do this, you could put your health in danger. Countless college students running late to early morning classes have tested this myth, including me. Science has proven that bacteria or viruses in the air entering your lungs cause pneumonia, not wet hair.

If you Google "Does going out with wet hair make you sick" – you will get more than 50 million results in less than a second. If you look long enough, you will find at least one Page to support whatever stance you want to take on this. Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic both have websites stating this is a myth. Some websites say "this is a myth, but..." They go on to hypothesize subtle correlations between having wet hair and lowering nasal passage temperatures just enough to increase susceptibility to a virus that may already be there. There will always be grandmothers who insist that they are right, regardless of what any doctor, institution or the internet says.

We live in an age of easy information. With so many answers and opinions, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and not know who or what to believe. This is why we at the Prairie Doc have strived to bring in experts each week to help give health information that is based on science and built on trust.We know that without science, we cannot bring you accurate information. More importantly, without trust, it really does not matter what we tell you. We hope that over the last 20 years we have earned that trust. Please continue to tune in to South Dakota Public Television, Facebook or YouTube and ask those questions. We are here for you and truly look forward to discussing your questions each week. We will help you separate medical myth from fact so you can "Stay Healthy Out There."

Jill Kruse, D.O. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians. She currently practices as a hospitalist in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at prairiedoc.org, on Facebook and Instagram featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc®, a medical Q&A show providing health information based on science and built on trust.


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