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Parenting Myths

with Andrew Adesman, MD

Raising kids is an important job, but sometimes myths and misconceptions get in the way. Dr. Adesman explores popular health beliefs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tainted Candy and Other Halloween Myths

trick-or-treaters

Photodisc

Halloween is definitely a holiday for fun and imagination — including scary costumes for kids and scary myths for their parents.  Here are four myths that are definitely NOT true.

Excess consumption of sugar-laden candy will make kids hyperactive.

This popular belief has a life of its own, and despite many well-designed studies showing that sugar does not cause hyperactivity, this myth also seems to have a life more invincible than your favorite vampire. Sugar does not cause hyperactivity.  I repeat: sugar does not cause hyperactivity.

When kids are hyper at special occasions like birthday parties, it is not the sweets that are revving them up, but the situation itself — the excitement, the lack of structure, the novel environment, the influence of other kids, and the deviation from familiar routines and schedules.  To the extent that sugar may reflect empty calories nutritionally and lead to dental cavities, there are good health reasons to limit sugar intake in general.   On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with kids indulging in sweets once a year.

It is not safe to eat candy given by strangers since there are many reports of children being poisoning by candy laced with illicit drugs, cyanide, strychnine, or other toxic chemicals.

Interestingly, most reported cases of tampered candy are perpetrated by individuals seeking to attract publicity — either as the victim or as the one who identified the poison.   Although there have been 2 cases of deaths related to poisoning of Halloween candy, in both cases, the victim was a family member of the source of the poisoned candy.  For a fascinating summary of the various cases first reported as Halloween poisonings and later proven otherwise, I encourage readers to visit Snopes: “Poisoned Halloween Candy”. This myth notwithstanding, common sense suggests that concerned parents should check over the candy and other treats and discard any items that are not individually wrapped or whose appearance is otherwise concerning.

Many children have been seriously injured by razor blades or needles in fruit or candy

This fear has also taken on a life of its own despite how rare these events have occurred. One science website points out that a child has a better chance of getting hit by a car than finding a razor blade in his or her Halloween goodies, and a sociology professor who is an expert on the subject of Halloween poisoning says that there is not a single documented case of a razor blade being found in an apple. Most if not all reported cases turn out to be hoaxes. Nonetheless, this urban legend lives on. Tempting as it may be to give children fresh fruit, parents remain so concerned about the possibility of tampering that they will not allow their child to consume fresh fruit given out on Halloween and they will not give it out themselves for fear it will just be discarded. I am not suggesting that parents buck this trend, but it should be comforting to know that there are virtually no reports of random poisoning/tampering with of candy or other treats.

Halloween puts young children at the mercy of pedophiles.

Although our culture has increased concerns about “stranger-danger”, it is reported that there has never been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating. There are likely many reasons for this — including close parental supervision, trick-or-treating in groups, laws in some states for Halloween that impose strict curfews on convicted sex offenders and prohibit them from opening their door to trick-or-treaters. In a recent study of 67,000 sex offenses over a 9-year period, children were not found to be at any greater risk for sexual assault at Halloween time.  Parents should keep in mind that most sexual assaults on children are perpetrated by someone the child or the family knows.

So what should parents worry about?

  • Motor vehicle accidents: children are twice as likely to get killed by a car while walking on Halloween as on any other night. A flashlight, glow stick, or reflective tape can minimize the risk of an injury as a pedestrian.
  • Food allergies (peanuts and other allergens)
  • Allergic reactions to face paint or make-up
  • Flammable costumes
  • Eye injuries (costume swords, daggers, and other sharp objects)
  • If your child is wearing a mask, make sure it allows for good peripheral vision

For a list of many other safety tips on Halloween, go to The Halloween Safety Guide.

What are you doing to make sure your children have a fun and safe Halloween? Share your tips with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 8:02 am

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Call for Water Safety

Hot Weather Myths Part Two

Jenny Acheson/Stockbyte

Having talked about fun in the sun (sunglasses and sunscreens) and the risks of hyperthermia, most of us will try to stay cool in the pool or at the beach. Water safety can never be emphasized enough! Several young children have drowned in backyard pools in the NY area just in the past few weeks, and nationwide, hundreds more will drown in the course of this year. Although these cases typically resulted from toddlers or preschoolers finding their way illicitly into a family pool, I can’t emphasize enough how quickly and quietly a child can drown — even with an adult “watching” nearby.

Myth: A drowning child will draw attention to themselves either by calling for help by their frantic efforts to stay afloat.

Reality: A child drowning can be a relatively silent event. Regrettably, I know this all too well from personal experience. True story:  About 15 years ago, I was chatting poolside in the backyard of a close friend of mine who is also a pediatrician. Apart from her preschool-age daughter swimming in their pool, there were no other children, adults or other distractions around. It was just two pediatricians standing at the pool’s edge, engaged in conversation, as a young child swam in the water immediately below our feet.

The young girl’s swimming was relatively quiet, but it was her near-drowning that was even more silent. I am not sure if it was serendipity or the “deathly silence,” but one of us looked down and saw this little girl under the water — submerged and motionless. We were able to reach down and pull her immediately from the water. Fortunately, she was very quickly revived and did not have any medical consequences. (In fact, she now is a happy and healthy college student.) But, she could have just as easily become another statistic — a victim of inadequate supervision.

Children who are proficient swimmers can drown if they experience muscle cramp or fatigue when swimming, or if they panic following the accidental swallowing of water.

Supervision and more supervision!  That is the key — there is no substitute.

How do you ensure your kids’ water safety? Share your advice with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 4:33 pm

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heat Waves, Hyperthermia and Hot Cars

Hot Weather Myths Part One

Summer is most definitely here, and we have just experienced an impressive heat wave here in New York. Today, I would like to address the importance of car safety and children during the summer. And then I’ll debunk some other hot weather myths in my next few posts.

Myth: You can leave a child in a car alone if you leave the windows open a little and it is not too hot outside.

Reality: This is definitely wrong, and this misconception brings lethal consequences to parents who naively believe it.  Dozens of children die each year from being left or becoming trapped in a locked vehicle. Twenty-one children have already died in 2010.

To “drive” home the point, let me impress you with some amazing figures. The interior of a car parked in direct sunlight can reach temperatures between 131 degrees and 172 degrees when the temperature outside the car is 80 degrees – 100 degrees. On a day that is 83 degrees — even with the windows rolled down 2 inches — the inside of a car can reach 109 degrees within 15 minutes. On a day that is 93 degrees, the inside of a car can reach 125 degrees in just 20 minutes!

Although you may think that you can handle these temperatures, bear in mind that the body of a child — especially a young child — is less adept at handling heat. This is because they have less capacity to sweat and they have greater exposure to the heat since their bodies have more surface area relative to their volume.

A child is said to have heatstroke if his body temperature rises above 103 degrees. Heatstroke is indeed a life-threatening medical emergency. Whereas a fever of 104 degrees or 105 degrees does not cause organ damage, hyperthermia with similar body temperature elevations are not as benign. Hyperthermia can lead to injury to various body organs, including the brain, and a temperature of 107 degrees is fatal.

Although all states have laws against endangering the welfare of a child, only 15 states presently have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a car.

Interestingly, the incidence of vehicle-related hyperthermia has increased dramatically with the advent of airbags. Since children no longer sit in the front seat, they are sometimes forgotten when out of sight in the rear seat. During the 12-year period from 1998-2009, there were 443 child vehicular hyperthermia deaths. More than half (51%) of these tragic deaths were because the child was “forgotten” by the caregiver. Whereas there were 37 deaths each year on average during this time interval, there were only 3-4 year known deaths per year in the early 1990’s prior to airbags becoming popular.

For additional information about vehicular hyperthermia in children,take a look at this hyperthermia fact sheet which was published in Pediatrics. Bear in mind that the same concerns about heat exposure in a car interior would likely apply to pets, not just children. So do not leave Junior or Fido in the car unattended.

Editor’s Note: The consequences of leaving a child unattended in a car are chilling to consider. Last year The Washington Post ran a groundbreaking story on the issue that won the Pulitzer. They also include suggestions from advocacy group Kidsandcars.org on “Ways to Help Prevent a Tragedy.” Please do your part to help reduce this risk and potentially save a child’s life.

Have you taken extra precautions when it comes to heat and car safety? Share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 5:01 pm

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Truth About Tanning

mother and daughter sunbathing

Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Sunscreen Myths Part Four

How would you rate yourself on the basics of sun protection? Were you surprised to discover that you’ve fallen for some of the common myths about sunscreen?

In this series, I’ve debunked 16 myths about sun exposure and outlined the guidelines that you need to follow to protect your family from harmful sun exposure. Here are the final four, this time focusing on tanning:

Myth: If you darken your skin using a self-tanning lotion (or sunless tanning lotion), you will have natural protection from the sun.
Reality:
These products give you the appearance of a tan without UV exposure. However, these products generally do not offer any UV protection when you go out in the sun. So, you must wear appropriate sunscreens in the sun even when you start out with a sunless “tan.”

Myth: Getting a “base tan” from a tanning salon before you go on vacation will provide you with a protective tan for the beach.
Reality:
A suntan provides very limited protection — the equivalent of SPF4. Moreover, the tan from a tanning salon is not the same as a natural tan since it is predominantly UVA. Tanning salons — with their intensive UVA rays — put you at increased risk for melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.

Myth: You can still use your suntan lotion from the previous season if the bottle is not opened.
Reality:
Sunscreens start to lose their effectiveness after one year and are worthless after three years. Check the bottle for the expiration date since some products break down even sooner — especially ones that offer UVA protection.

Myth: UV protection from sunglasses and a good sunscreen (with UVA and UVB protection) are all that I need to protect myself from the sun.
Reality:
Although this is a good combination, common sense suggests limiting your exposure to a hot sun during the midday when UV rays are strongest. For example, some parts are of your body may be difficult to protect with lotion — such as your scalp with thinning hair. Taking breaks in the shade, covering up and wearing a hat are also important.

Read the series on Sunscreen Myths:

Do you have any tips on how you protect your family from harmful sun exposure? Share your advice with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 1:33 pm

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Get Real About Sun Protection

Sunscreen Myths Part Three

little boy on the beach

Christopher Robbins/Valueline/Thinkstock

This summer I hope you will take the necessary steps to protect you and your child from sunburns and sun exposure. You may be confused about the proper usage of sunscreen so check out my recent blog posts on “Four Myths That Could Burn You and Your Child” and “Four Mistakes Parents Make With Sunscreen.”

Now, I will give you the lowdown on sunburns and sun exposure. It’s up to you to put these guidelines into practice.

Myth: If I put on a high SPF sunscreen when I get to the beach, I will not get a sunburn.
Reality:
If you first apply your sunscreen when you get to the beach, there is a good chance you will get sunburn — especially on parts of your body that are more fair.  Unlike sunblocks which provide immediate protection, sunscreens typically take 30 minutes to work effectively.  Thus, you should put sunscreen a half hour before going out in the sun.

Myth: You don’t have to worry about sun exposure through a glass window.
Reality:
Although glass is a pretty good filter of UVB rays, it does not keep out most UVA rays. This means that you do not have to worry about sunburn from sun coming through a window, but the UVA rays can lead to premature aging of the skin, wrinkles and melanoma.

Myth: A suntan will help get rid of acne.
Reality:
A suntan may improve acne for a few days but may make it worse the following week. Drying out the skin can lead to improvement of the condition, but the skin may compensate for the dryness and pump out more sebum, which could then to more clogged skin pores… and thus more acne. Also, some sunscreens can also block the pores and predispose you to increased acne. If you have acne, you should look for a sunscreen product that is labeled “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic.”

girl in lake being splashed

Soul/Lifesize/Thinkstock

Myth: You do not have to worry about the sun when you are swimming in the water.
Reality:
Shallow water provides very little protection from UV exposure, and this is especially an issue with young children in kiddie pools or splash pools. Adults have the additional concern that reflections from the water can increase the amount of UV.  This means that your face will get more intense sun exposure even when the rest of your body is submerged.

Read the series on Sunscreen Myths:

Be honest: Did you fall for any of these sunscreen myths? Share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 9:49 am

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Four Mistakes Parents Make With Sunscreen

Sunscreen Myths Part Two

In my last post, I discussed the importance of sun protection in preventing skin cancer and why an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.

I also dissected four myths and misconceptions about how sunscreen works. Here are four more common mistakes parents often make when it comes to sun protection for you and your child:

Myth: Sunscreen protection is additive. In other words, if you put on a sunscreen with an SPF15, and then you put on another product (sunscreen, make-up, or moisturizer) with an SPF of 10, then you will have the combined sunscreen protection equivalent to an SPF25.
Reality: Definitely not. The only SPF value that counts is the highest number – and that assumes that other chemicals placed on the skin are not going to reduce the absorption of the sunscreen.  In the example above, you would only have protection from the highest SPF – SPF15.

Myth: I don’t have to put sunscreen on areas covered by clothing.
Reality: Ouch! This is not necessarily true. A dry white T-shirt may provide an SPF of 7, but that SPF reduces to 3 if you go swimming in it. A dry, dark colored T-shirt may offer an SPF of 10, and clothes are now available that provide even higher protection from UV rays. Whereas T-shirts do not provide much protection, swimsuits do generally have a higher SPF. In fact, you can now buy swimsuits with a higher SPF for additional protection or with a lower SPF (6-10) to facilitate tanning (with the added risk of burning). There are also special laundry products that you can use on the clothing you already own to increase the UV protection.

Myth: If I use a sunscreen with a high SPF, I do not have to worry about staying out in the sun.
Reality:
No. The SPF rating reflects protection from UVB rays – the rays that cause sunburn. However, the SPF rating says nothing about a product’s protection from UVA – the rays that lead to aging of the skin and melanoma – the most lethal form of skin cancer. (The FDA is considering the addition of a different rating system so that consumers can gauge the amount of UVA protection a product offers.) To minimize sun-related skin damage, it is important to seek out a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB. For UVA protection, look for products that have one or more of these ingredients: avobenzone, mexoryl, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Myth: You don’t have to re-apply a sunscreen if it says it is “waterproof.”
Reality: No sunscreen provides all day protection. According to the FDA, a sunscreen can be considered “water-resistant” if it maintains its SPF after 40 minutes in the water, whereas a “waterproof” sunscreen must retain its SPF after 80 minutes in the water. In neither case should one assume that re-application is not necessary. Toweling off after a swim may further reduce the protection you have from the sun.

Read the series on Sunscreen Myths:

Do you pass the grade when it comes sun protection? Share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 2:22 pm

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Four Myths That Could Burn You and Your Kids

Sunscreen Myths Part One

Young boy with stretched out hands under the sunlight

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Sun protection for your eyes is essential, and in my first two posts, I discussed nine different myths related to sunglasses and what you need to know to keep your eyes healthy. But, protecting our eyes is only half the story; we also have to protect our skin.

Although everyone knows that sunburn can lead to skin cancer, there is considerable misunderstanding about how and when to protect themselves from the sun. This is especially important for children. Children spend more time outside, they cannot be trusted to apply sunscreen properly on themselves, and they are more likely to spend more time frolicking in the water – when given the chance.

Unfortunately, there are at least as many suntan and sunscreen myths as there are sunglasses myths. So, with the belief that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I will debunk the 16 (yes, 16!) myths about sun exposure and sunscreens that you need to know as a parent or as a full-grown sun worshiper! Here are the first four:

Myth: If you have dark skin, you do not need to wear sunscreen.
Reality: Nothing could be further from the truth. Although individuals with dark skin do indeed have more melanin in their skin, this does not protect them for all of the sun’s bad effects. Melanin will provide some protection from sunburn, it does not eliminate the cancer risks from the ultraviolet rays nor will it prevent the aging seen with sun exposure. Not only do people with a dark complexion get skin cancer from sun exposure (albeit at a much lower rate than fair-skinned individuals), they have a higher rate of mortality from melanoma — the deadliest form sun-related skin cancer. Although dark complected individuals may not need a sunscreen with an ultra-high sun protection factor (SPF), they should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Not only will this reduce the risk of skin cancer, but it will also minimize the skin aging that can be seen with extensive sun exposure.

Myth: There is no advantage to using a sunscreen with an SPF above 30.
Reality: There is a very small advantage to using sunscreens with a very high SPF, and some argue that the additional protection with ultra-high SPF sunscreens becomes important over a lifetime. I believe that for most sun exposure, an SPF of 30 is likely fine, but the key is to apply it properly – apply it initially 20-30 minutes in advance of going out in the sun and then re-apply as directed — especially if you perspire or spend time in the water. I (see Sunscreen Myths, Part 2 for the myth related to waterproof sunscreens). If you are fair-skinned and/or want to maximize your protection from sun-related skin damage or disease, then a higher SPF sunscreen will provide you a small additional benefit.

Myth: A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 provides double the protection of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15.
Reality: An SPF of 15 provides 93% protection against UVB rays, whereas an SPF of 30 provides 96-97% protection. By contrast, an SPF of 2 provides only 50%protection. A sunscreen with an ultra-high SPF of 90+ provides 99% protection. Whereas some health experts dismiss this as a marketing gimmick, others believe that the ultra-high SPF may provide some meaningful protection over the long term. How high an SPF you seek in your sunscreen will be determined by your amount of sun exposure anticipated, your skin color, and the margin of safety you seek. You should choose at least 15-30 depending on these three factors.

Myth: You don’t need to wear sunscreen on a cloudy day.
Reality: Not true, if it is a partly cloudy day. You definitely have to be mindful of UV exposure on a partly cloudy (partly sunny day). And, remember, this becomes all the more true if you are on the sand, in the water, or in the snow. (Skiers should note that UV exposure increases at higher elevations!) If it is an overcast rainy day, then you do not have to worry about the sun.

Read the series on Sunscreen Myths:

How careful are you about sun exposure — for your child and yourself? Share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 4:45 pm

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nine Myths About Sunglasses – Part 2

kids in sunglasses

Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Protecting the eyes from ultra-violet (UV) light is the most important goal for recreational sunglasses. In my last post, we covered four top myths and misconceptions about sunglasses. I emphasized the importance of checking the label of any sunglasses you are considering for purchase for you or your child. But, can you trust the labels?

Myth #5:  The UV information on all sunglasses is accurate and meaningful.
Reality: In some cases, the information may not be accurate or meaningful. For example, one has no idea regarding the amount of the UV protection provided by sunglasses labeled “UV absorbing” or “blocks most UV light”. And, according to a study recently reported in a medical journal, 20% of European sunglasses were inaccurately labeled in one or more regards. The best way to insure the UV protection of sunglasses is to purchase products from established and reputable companies. If uncertain or uneasy, many optometrists have a UV meter and can measure the UV protection offered by sunglasses so that you can be sure that you and your children are getting the long-term vision protection that everyone needs.

Myth #6: You only need to wear sunglasses on sunny days.
Reality: UV light exposure can be as great or even greater on cloudy days. Sunglasses (or glasses that provide UV protection) should be worn whenever there is extended outdoor exposure — especially mid-day and summertime when the risks are greatest!

Myth #7: Some tint colors provide more UV protection than others.
Reality: UV protection is independent of the color (or darkness) of the tint.

Myth #8: The style of the sunglasses does not matter as long as the lenses themselves provide 100% UV protection.
Reality: 100% UV protection is “necessary but not sufficient” to protect your eyes. If you have small lenses that rest a distance from your eyes, then these sunglasses can allow a lot of stray light to enter. Ideally, sunglass lenses should not allow significant stray light to enter from the sides. Wraparound-style lenses were designed to minimize this risk. Avoid sunglasses that have small lenses or otherwise allow excess stray light to enter.

Myth #9: Polarized lenses – because of their filtering ability – provide UV protection.
Reality: Just as lens color and darkness are independent of UV protection, lenses that are polarized do not necessarily offer UV protection. Although polarized lenses can help reduce glare, polarization does not block UV light. One needs to make sure that the lenses offer 98% or 100% UV protection in addition to being polarized.

By the way, the 3-D glasses you use in the movie theaters are polarized lenses, but they do not likely provide any UV protection since they were not designed for outside use; so leave them at the theater and don’t wear them at the beach.

Bottom line: Parents must pay attention to their children’s sun exposure,  making sure that their exposure to ultraviolet light is minimized. In this way, you can help insure that their eyes are healthy and vision is sharp years from now when they are parents and grandparents themselves.

Did you fall prey one of these myths about wearing sunglasses? Post your comments on the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 11:16 am

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nine Myths About Sunglasses – Part 1

Kids come out, summer has arrived

Kids come out – summer has arrived!
Josh Pesavento / CC BY 2.0

Myths, myths, and more myths will be the focus of this blog. To quote President John F. Kennedy when speaking at a Yale graduation in 1962:

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic…Mythology distracts us everywhere.”

With Memorial Day behind us and the first official day of summer less than a week away, I would like to begin this parenting myths blog with a focus on hot weather myths.  There are many myths and misconceptions related to summertime and the great outdoors.

Let’s begin with some common myths about sunglasses. Parents and children are encouraged to protect their skin and their eyes from sun exposure when outdoors for an extended period of time. Sunglasses are an excellent way to protect one’s eyes; however, they have the potential to do more harm than good if they do not provide protection from ultraviolet (UV) light.

So what are some of the top myths and misconceptions about sunglasses?

Myth #1: Darker sunglasses provide more protection for the eyes than sunglasses that are less tinted.
Reality: The amount of UV protection provided by a pair of sunglasses is independent of the amount of tint. Some dark glasses can provide little UV protection and some lightly tinted glasses may provide 100% protection. The key is to read the label on the sunglasses. Look for an indication that the sunglasses provide 100% UV protection; these glasses may be labeled UV400 instead. Another key to the amount of UV protection will be the lens material. Polycarbonate lenses generally provide 100% UV protection, whereas CR-39 plastic provides 88% protection, and cheap triacetate lenses only confer 40% protection.

Myth #2: If you can see your own eyes, then your sunglasses are not dark enough.
Reality: This myth is in essence a variant of the first misconception. UV protection is not related whatsoever to how dark the lens is.  The primary goal of sunglasses is to protect your eyes and your children’s eyes from UV light. Once you make sure that everyone’s sunglasses provide 100% protection, then the degree of tint can be an individual decision based on personal preference.

Myth #3:  Wearing cheap sunglasses are better than no sunglasses if my child and I are going to be out in the sun for an extended period.
Reality:  As noted above, the price of the sunglasses does not guarantee the amount of UV protection. More importantly, if you are wearing sunglasses that are darkly tinted yet do not offer much UV protection, the back of your eyes will be exposed to more UV light, not less. This is because the tinted lenses will encourage your pupils to dilate (enlarge), which will then allow more UV light to reach the back of your eye. Although this UV exposure may not take its toll immediately, increased UV exposure has clearly been linked to many forms of eye disease that may not show up for decades. Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are just two forms of delayed eye disease that good (not necessarily expensive) eyeglasses can help prevent.

Myth #4: Kids do not need sunglasses. I did not wear them when I was a child and my eyes are fine.
Reality: Health care professionals were not as aware of the long-term dangers of UV exposure many years ago. I know that when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, there was no emphasis on UV protection for skin or eyes. Experts now feel that childhood is indeed the critical time to protect the eyes from UV exposure. There are several reasons for this. First, kids spend more time outdoors than adults; this is likely true even in this day of video games and cable TV. Second, children’s pupils are larger as a percentage than those of adults. It is estimated that 50% of one’s lifetime exposure to UV light occurs by age 18.

Stay tuned… more sunglasses myths in my next post! In the weeks ahead, I will be debunking popular beliefs about sun exposure and suntan lotion, first aid for outdoor risks (such as snakes, jelly fish, poison ivy), and even water safety. As a pediatrician, many of the myths I plan to discuss in the months ahead will be child-specific; but for now, each of the summertime myths will help insure not only your child’s safety but your own well-being as well – all at no extra charge!

Part Two: More Myths About Sunglasses

Want to get the facts about sun exposure, water safety and the great outdoors? Ask Dr. Adesman your questions on the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 8:04 am

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Debunking Common Parenting Myths

“Half of what we will teach you is wrong; the problem is we do not know which half.”

Dr. Adesman & Max

Dr. Adesman explains to Max
that eating carrots will NOT improve his vision!

That is exactly what the Dean of my medical school told our incoming class 33 years ago. His statement struck me as odd at the time, and yet I realize there was much truth in what he said. With each passing day and each new major advance in healthcare, I appreciate that medical science is a journey of discovery – and yes, we often discover that what we “knew” to be true is plain wrong.

For example, physicians were certain that ulcers were caused by stress. Doctors and parents “knew” that eating chocolate would make a teenager’s acne worse. And, as pediatricians, we confidently instructed parents that young babies were safest if put them to sleep on their stomach so that they would not aspirate. Of course, each of these obvious, scientifically grounded “facts” has been shown to be false.

Fast forward to the present. I am a pediatrician – married to another pediatrician and father to three teenage children. One would think that, with all of this medical savvy, my wife and I would be immune to parenting errors and medical misinformation when it came to raising our own kids. I wish that were the case!

As all parents learn – usually quite quickly- there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Even pediatrician-parents. Despite our twenty years of combined medical education beyond college, my wife and I sometimes found ourselves subscribing to old wives’ tales or parenting pearls that, in reality, were parenting myths.

I realized that if two pediatricians found themselves believing in pediatric myths, then more needs to be done to educate parents (and pediatricians) about these myths. My first step was to gather as many of these myths as possible. After I assembled several hundred parenting misconceptions or myths, I wrote a book for parents of young children that dispels and debunks more than 150 of these myths.

You can learn more about this book, BabyFacts — The Truth about Your Child from Newborn through Preschool, at the book’s website.  My goal now, through this WebMD blog, is to share information with you about many of the health myths that parents absolutely need to know about. And, whereas my book focuses just on myths that pertain to young children, this blog will have a broader scope since I will also identify and dispel misconceptions that affect school-age children and teens as well.

Every few days, I will be writing about one or more new popular misconceptions about children’s health, development and safety. This blog will not focus on old wives’ tales that are silly- amusing as they may be. Everyone already knows that if you swallow a watermelon pit a watermelon will not really grow in your stomach. To the contrary, this blog will focus on the parenting myths that too many parents (and some pediatricians) believe to be true.

I hope you will follow along as I challenge many of the parenting “truths” you and many other parents cling to. I know you will be a smarter, and thus a better parent for it!

True or false? Ask Dr. Adesman your questions and share your comments with the Parenting Community.

Posted by: Andrew Adesman, MD at 10:48 am