Truth Behind Holiday Health Myths

The holiday season is the best time of the year for most: presents and parties and eggnog are in high gear for the month of December. But the traveling season is also a favorite of some unwelcomed guests, and no not your drunken uncle. The cold weather this time of year is a haven for the common cold and provides the ideal setting for the flu. As our mothers have told us, we never go out of the house with wet hair because if you do, you’ll catch a cold. Regrettably, our mothers were a little off on the truth; colds are caused by viruses, not wet hair. Here are three other health myths that have been around for generations.

Turkey Makes You Sleepy

Thanks to tryptophan, the amino acid that induces serotonin in your brain, many people hold the belief that after eating turkey, you want to go to sleep. Indeed, after eating a big turkey dinner, most families undo the top button of their pants and take a little nap around the fireplace. But this isn’t a result of the tryptophan in turkey; in fact, turkey has the same levels of tryptophan as turkey and just a bit more than cheese or pork.

The reason why most people feel sleepy afterward is due to the fact that they just gorged on a meal that could feed ten families. All the carbohydrates from the potatoes and rolls are the more likely culprit for your drowsiness. When the body consumes vast quantities of carbs, it shifts priorities to your stomach and away from the brain, making you sleepy.

Poinsettias Are Poisonous

This myth began way back in 1919. Apparently, if consumed by children or small pets, poinsettias can be fatally poisonous. According to Edward Krenzelok, Pharm.D from the Pittsburgh Poison Center, eating sap or a leaf from a poinsettia is not a danger to our little ones; in fact, the worse possible outcome is the child or pet may vomit or have diarrhea.

The pretty red flowers pose no danger to your beloved pets and children, but another holiday flower may indeed pose a threat: Christmas lilies. According to a 2006 study by the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, Christmas lilies can be fatal to cats. The seasonal plant, even in the smallest of doses, will cause severe kidney damage in your cat and may even cause death. Signs include vomiting, inability to urinate, and lethargy.

Always Use Hand Sanitizers

This modern myth, which tells us to constantly use hand sanitizers so that you won’t catch a cold is close, but not completely true. Although sanitizers do kill the rhinovirus which causes the common cold, it is unlikely that you will reduce your chances of getting sick. According to recent studies, physical contact is a less effective way of transferring the virus. The virus is spread much more effectively when it is airborne; therefore, it is a good idea to blow your nose into a handkerchief or use an antihistamine spray.