5 Insanely Wrong Health Tips Your Parents Taught You

Much like any DIY project, adjusting your healthcare practices should only be done based on the advice of professionals, not some random person on the internet or the voice your dog uses that only you can hear. Because just like what Dr. Von Fluffles whispers through the walls at night, some advice that sounds good at the time may instead turn out to be murderous.


If You Swallow Poison, Don’t Force Yourself To Puke

The logical reaction when somebody swallows a toxic substance is to try to get that shit straight back out as soon as possible. For years, pediatricians recommended that parents keep ipecac syrup on hand in order to induce vomiting in cases of accidental poisoning.

But more recent studies have concluded that by inducing vomiting, you actually risk dehydrating the subject on top of the poisoning. Plus, you’re far from guaranteeing that all of the harmful substance has been evacuated from their system, and in the case of a victim falling unconscious, you’re introducing the very real possibility of them suffocating to death on their own vomit. That’s got to be, like, the third-worst way to die.

It doesn’t bode well when the stuff meant to cure poisoning has its own entry with Poison Control.

As for ipecac, a study of 750,000 poisoned children found that its use resulted in “no reduction in resource utilization or improvement in patient outcome.” Not only that, but (perhaps unsurprisingly for a substance so noxious that its sole purpose is to make you launch your lunch into the next room) too much ipecac syrup can damage your heart or outright kill you. It’s so unhelpful, in fact, that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you toss that shit straight out. But that’s the kind of talk Big Vomit doesn’t like to hear.


You Need Some Time Outdoors Without Sunscreen

Sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. Statements don’t get much simpler than that. Use sunscreen all the time, or the sky will eat you. Your call.

The problem comes when we overcorrect our behavior to ward off the skin cancer boogeyman and completely neglect the fact that our bodies require sun exposure in order to produce vitamin D. And not only is vitamin D crucial to a healthy immune system and necessary for proper tooth and bone development, but low vitamin D levels are strongly correlated with higher rates of asthma, various cancers, heart-related ailments (including dangerously low blood pressure in pregnant women), and dramatically higher incidences of multiple sclerosis in northern U.S. states. Hell, even melanoma — the very bad guy we’re trying to ward off by bathing in sunscreen — occurs less in people who get regular doses of sunlight. That’s why in places like Australia (where more than a third of the population suffers from vitamin D deficiency), medical experts are backpedaling on decades of preaching against the sun and are instead encouraging people to spend a healthy amount of sunscreen-free time outdoors.

Our “all or nothing” mentality has even ushered in a comeback of rickets in the UK and the Northwestern United States. Yes, rickets — aka the Tiny Tim disease from A Christmas Carol. Nobody’s saying you should abandon sunscreen altogether; just that the sun is not your natural enemy, and you don’t have to armor up every single time you see it.


If You Haven’t Had A Heart Attack Already, Don’t Take Aspirin Daily

Everybody knows that a daily low dose of aspirin does for your blood what lunch at Chipotle does for your bowels: keeps things flowin’. But the fact of the matter is that while aspirin’s blood-thinning effects can sometimes help prevent heart attacks in a very specific subset of people (namely, those who’ve already experienced a heart attack), it was never recommended by the medical community at large as a catch-all preventative solution. Yes, we know it’s a shocking revelation that you can’t put your trust in marketing slogans, but despite what that “Heart Health Advantage” logo subtly displayed on your bottle of Bayer might suggest, studies have shown that aspirin’s benefits as pertains to preventing a first heart attack or stroke are just about bupkis.

That wouldn’t be so bad if the misconception resulted in nothing more than who knows how many people popping a daily placebo, but that’s not the case. Taking regular doses of aspirin contributes to all manner of maladies, including gastrointestinal bleeding in otherwise healthy women, fatal bleeds in elderly patients, decreasing the effectiveness of prostate cancer screenings in men, and effecting a net increase in the likelihood of a repeat heart attack or stroke in the 30 percent of cardiovascular disease sufferers who are aspirin-resistant. As a result, Bayer’s aforementioned marketing campaign was not only deemed false, but has also earned them a hefty $15 million class action settlement. Not quite a heart-attack-worthy amount for such a massive company, but slightly better than a placebo.

Or about 1/3,500th of their earnings that year. Yippee for the FDA, we guess.


Don’t Deep-Freeze Any Severed Appendages To “Keep Them Fresh”

Kitchen knives slip, passing comets bring lawn mowers to murderous life, hands turn evil and must be chainsawed off. You know, shit happens. And we all know that the proper course of action in such a circumstance is to stop the bleeding, clean the wound, and toss the recently separated body part on a bed of ice like shrimp at an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

But that’s not always the best solution: When Seattleite Jim Beaty table-sawed the tip clean off his finger while doing home renovations in 2010, he and his wife tossed it in a Tupperware container and covered it with ice. When they arrived at the emergency room, they discovered how bad an idea that was. Especially in cases involving small body parts, such as fingers and toes, direct contact with ice rapidly causes freezer burn and damages tissue beyond repair. Instead, they should have wrapped the finger in a clean, damp cloth and kept it cold, not frozen. Basically, treat your severed body parts less like Hot Pockets and more like a fine steak, and you might get to keep that hand.


Don’t Do Pretty Much Anything You Think You Should Do For A Snakebite

According to classic Western movie wisdom, the steps to treat a bite from a venomous snake are 1) tie a tourniquet above the bite to prevent the poison from making its way into the rest of your body, 2) hack into the bite, probably using the same knife you employed to kill that bastard snake, and 3) suck out the poison. If you can’t manage to reach the site of the wound with your own mouth, a companion’s mouth will do. This is what old-timey cowboys referred to as “bonding.”

And that is a great list … of things you absolutely should not do in the event of a snakebite.

While tying off a tourniquet seems like a no-brainer, keeping all the venom trapped in one area only serves to cause necrosis, meaning that the venom effectively kills whatever part of the body you trapped it in, thereby leaving doctors no choice but to give it the ol’ Civil War Chop. Cutting the wound only serves to introduce more damaged tissue for the venom to interact with, and increases the chance of infection. And sucking on the wound is, let’s face it, just plain gross. (And also completely pointless.)

What you should actually do is remain calm (getting your heart rate up will only serve to spread the venom faster), not drink caffeine or alcohol (the latter of which, of course, flies directly in the face of the “remain calm” bit), remove any jewelry and tight clothing before you do a terrible Michelin Man impersonation, and, most importantly, get your snake-bitten ass to a doctor for a nice fat dose of antivenin. No tying of ropes, cutting, or sucking at all. That makes for a boring Friday night, but it is how you survive a snakebite.

For more ways we’re likely destroying ourselves, check out 5 Well-Known Tips for Healthy Eating (That Don’t Work) and 6 Well-Known Health Tips (That Don’t Work At All).

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