Myth-busters: How true are the tales our parents told us as kids?


Casey Critz, Staff Writer

From preadolescence to even our late teen years, some parents have tricked us into thinking a couple of weird things were illegal, dangerous, or just had a strange effect on us. Ranging from seeds growing in your stomach to wet hair induced colds, here is a list of 14 of these odd things and whether our parents were right or just buffing.


      1. Turning on the lights in the car while driving is illegal

Driving with a light on in your car is legal, but not the safest thing to do. While there is no law or regulation stating that turning on a cabin light while driving is illegal, the glare caused by the light, especially at night, can impair a driver’s field of vision. Not to mention, it can also be distracting to drivers as they might look over to see why their passenger turned on the light.


      2. If you rub your eyes too often, you will damage them

Rubbing your eyes is a common and simple act that can even be therapeutic, but if you rub your eyes too often or too hard you can injure them. 

Rubbing your eyes can play havoc with your appearance,” the Vision Eye Institute said.It can cause tiny blood vessels to break, resulting in blood-shot eyes and those dark, unsightly circles that everyone is always trying to avoid,”

Also, the bacteria on our hands can be transferred to our eyes when we rub them. The worst case scenario is that it can lead to long term diseases that ruin your eyesight, but this is rare. 


      3. Carrots can give you night vision

Carrots contain beta carotene, a chemical that the body can convert into vitamin A. 

“Vitamin A helps the eye convert light into a signal that can be transmitted to the brain, allowing people to see under conditions of low light,” Scientific American said.

While carrots can improve your eyesight, especially in the dark, it most definitely cannot give you super night vision.


      4. Sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes

There is no evidence to prove that sitting too close to the TV will damage your eyes, but it may cause eyestrain. 

“Eye strain can produce eye discomfort and headaches, although it is uncommon and overrated as a cause of headache,” the American Migraine Foundation said. “The typical headache of eyestrain starts after using the eyes, especially for extended periods of time.”

Like most things, it should be done in moderation, with extreme cases only causing headaches or discomfort.


      5. Reading in the dark will make you go blind

“Although dim lighting will not adversely affect your eyesight, it will tire your eyes out more quickly,” Harvard Health Publishing said.

Like sitting too close to the TV, reading in the dark won’t cause you any long term issues, but can cause eyestrain. In order to prevent any discomfort, the best way to read is with a light pointed at the pages.


      6. Swallowing watermelon seeds will hurt you

You may have heard that watermelon seeds contain chemicals, like cyanide.

Watermelon seeds do not contain any chemicals. The only pain that can be caused by watermelon seeds is if one gets stuck in your throat. 

However, “Apples, cherries, almonds and peaches all have seeds or pits that contain a bit of the chemical amygdalin, which can be converted to cyanide by the bacteria natural to the intestinal tract,” Moment of Science, an Indiana public media company, said.

Nonetheless, the amount is significantly small so it would most likely never hurt you.


      7. Gum takes seven years to digest

This is most definitely a myth. While gum may stick to the floor or your table, it won’t stick to your stomach. Most people empty their stomachs 30 to 120 minutes after eating, and this includes gum. 

“An exception to this would be people with gastroparesis, or paralyzed stomach, which can result in a buildup of food in the stomach,” DukeHealth said.

It is still unlikely that it would stay in your stomach for seven years.


      8. If you cross your eyes, they might end up getting stuck 

While crossing your eyes may be a fun party trick, it won’t cause your eyes to get stuck crossed. 

“Our eyes naturally come together when we look at something closely so when you purposefully cross your eyes you are just exaggerating your eyes natural response,” Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute said.


      9. If you shower during a thunderstorm, you will get struck by lightning

Showering during a thunderstorm and using other plumbing, such as dishes or laundry, should be avoided. 

“On average, 10-20 people get struck by lightning while bathing, using faucets or handling an appliance during a storm,” meteorologist, Ariella Scalese, said.

Metal plumbing and water are both strong conductors of electricity and can carry lightning throughout your home.


      10. The rubber tires on your car can protect you from lightning

Many people think that being in a car will protect you from lightning because of the rubber tires, but this is actually a myth. A lightning bolt is so powerful that it will strike through the tires, possibly even melting them.

However, “the outer metal shell of hard-topped metal vehicles does provide protection to those inside a vehicle with the windows closed,” the National Weather Service said.

Every lightning strike is different and could damage your car, but it can also provide a small amount of shelter.


      11. Drinking coffee will stunt your growth

One or two cups of coffee won’t stunt your growth or cause any harm, but if you are drinking a lot of coffee everyday you might want to cut back. High doses of coffee can cause anxiety, insomnia and headaches.


      12. You can’t go swimming for 30 minutes after eating

Parents have warned their kids to not swim after just having a meal, believing that it can cause cramps that will impair your ability to swim.

 “You may end up with some stomach cramping or a muscle cramp, but this is not a dangerous activity to routinely enjoy,” emergency medicine physician, Michael Boniface, said.

While many parents tell their children this, there is no scientific backing to it. 


      13. Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis

There are no detrimental effects of cracking your knuckles. It may cause temporary swelling, but it won’t cause arthritis.

“The pressure applied to knuckles ‘causes vapor pockets within the fluid inside the joints,” Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Dr. John Fackler said. “This then ‘creates a vacuum that sucks the joint apart rapidly,’ causing a popping sound in the knuckles.” 

Cracking your knuckles may feel like a temporary relief of pain, but it is not helping or hurting any of your body’s function.


      14. If you sleep with your hair wet you will catch a cold

Going to bed with your hair wet will not cause a cold. In extremely cold temperatures it can contribute to hypothermia, but in warmer temperatures it won’t injure you.