Most parents have had their share of unsolicited advices and tips from people around them, especially from parents of much older children. These shared information range from trivial ones to those that have seemingly serious repercussions if not followed by the receiving party.
However, some younger parents may find these health sayings hard to believe especially if the person offering the advice cannot give an explanation behind it.
Old wives’ tales or wisdom from the elders? We asked Dr. Faith Anne Buenaventura-Alcazaren, a pediatrician at the Perpetual Succor Hospital in Manila and Healthfirst Clinic in Mandaluyong, to weigh in on some of them.
1. "Huwag magpatuyo ng pawis sa likod" This has been a typical admonition from older people whenever someone is perspiring or sweating, usually followed by threats of ‘pulmonya’ which is a loose translation of pneumonia in Filipino. However, your child will not get pneumonia just from sweat or perspiration drying on her back.
Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by a virus, a bacteria, or fungi that find their way inside your lungs. This is not related to getting too sweaty, letting the sweat dry on your skin, or even getting wet in the rain.
However, according to Dr. Faith, the elders may be onto something with this old wives’ tale, “Sweat is the body’s mechanism of releasing heat, which causes a decrease in body temperature. The cold virus (rhinovirus) is known to replicate faster in cooler environments and another study1 in Yale University spearheaded by Ellen F. Foxman has cited that the innate immune response to the cold virus becomes slightly impaired at lower body temperatures. Indirectly, the “cold draft” coming from the outer environment combined with excessive sweating that dries out may make a person susceptible to catching the common cold virus more easily.”
Although sweat by itself will not cause colds, it may lower your baby’s immune system against it, making her more susceptible to catching a cold virus.
2. "Huwag maligo sa hapon/gabi" There is nothing wrong with giving your child a bath in the late afternoon or even at night. One reason why some people may tell you not to is because the water will tend to be colder later in the day. Although taking a cold bath is not something your baby will like, it will not give your baby colds by itself. Colds are caused by viruses, not by cold water.
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Dr. Faith explains, “Bathing in the afternoon or at night does not really have any correlation with getting sick, but it probably has an effect on the baby’s comfort. The key is regulating the temperature in the bathroom and the water for bathing. If, for example, the weather is chilly, just remember to keep the windows and doors shut to avoid any cold draft while giving the baby a bath to keep her comfortable!”
The study cited in #1 above may also apply to this healthy saying – although bathing in the afternoon or at night will not make your baby sick, it may lower her body’s defences against the cold virus.
3. "Huwag matulog nang basa ang buhok" Some people who say this won’t even be able to tell you what the supposed consequences are of sleeping while your hair is wet. Although the only concrete outcome of doing this seems to be a wet pillow, Dr. Faith cautions not to be too fast in dispelling this so-called myth.
She clarifies, “There is such a thing called non-allergic rhinitis, which may be caused by fluctuating temperatures and weather changes. Sleeping with wet hair may decrease the temperature on the head area and cause blood vessels in the nose to dilate or expand, which in turn causes the nasal lining to fill with blood and fluid, resulting in swollen membranes, congestion, and runny nose.”
Take note that non-allergic rhinitis may also be caused by various triggers such as infections, environmental irritants, weather changes, foods and beverages, hormone changes, certain medications, and even stress.
4. "Huwag magpahamog" Some people think that the ‘hamog’ or dew in the air during the late afternoon until the early morning can cause colds. Again, colds are caused by viruses, not by cold water or moisture. The best way to avoid getting a cold is by avoiding exposure to someone who has it.
However, just like for #3 above, exposure to ‘hamog’ may increase your risk of developing non-allergic rhinitis. If you choose to take a late afternoon stroll with your baby or perhaps go out and show your baby the stars at night, just make sure you don’t expose your baby to others who might have colds and remember to keep your baby warm to lower his risk for non-allergic rhinitis.
5. "Lawayan si baby para hindi mausog" If there is a health belief that might significantly increase the chance of your baby getting a cold, this particular health belief would be it. Asking someone to put his saliva on any part of your baby’s body would mean exposing your baby to any virus or bacteria that can be transmitted through the saliva. This includes cold, flu, and meningitis, among others.
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Aside from the health risk of having saliva smeared on your child, ‘usog’ does not actually have any scientific basis. According to Dr. Faith, “No present studies suggest that putting saliva on a baby’s forehead has any medical benefit!” So whether it is someone’s first time to see your baby or someone is particularly fond of your little one, keep their saliva away from him.
6. "Huwag i-breastfeed si baby pag pagod, gutom, o may sakit" A nursing mother’s milk is not affected by hunger, fatigue, and even illness. You may find it more draining to nurse your baby if you are tired or hungry for obvious reasons, but there is no medical reason for you not to.
In case of illnesses, there are also only very few serious instances when a mother will be advised to stop breastfeeding. For typical infections such as a cold, flu, fever, stomach flu, and sore throat, breastfeeding will actually provide your baby with the antibodies that will help fight the virus or bacteria and prevent your baby from getting sick. Just make sure to tell your doctor to prescribe medication that is compatible with breastfeeding.
Dr. Faith likewise advises, “A tired and hungry baby is never a contraindication to breastfeeding. It will only lead to incessant crying and sleepless nights! During these times, cuddling and breastfeeding will even provide a soothing environment for the baby.”
7. "Lagyan ng sinulid ang noo ni baby pag may sinok" Hiccups are caused by involuntary movements of the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your chest that plays an important role in breathing. When the diaphragm gets irritated, its movements become jerky, forcing you to suck air into your throat suddenly. The rush of air inside hits your voice box, your vocal cords close abruptly, and the sound that accompanies a hiccup is produced.
An understanding of how a hiccup happens will help explain why a piece of thread placed on your baby’s forehead will do nothing to stop his hiccups. To add, Dr. Faith says, “Hiccups can be bothersome to parents, but it is not a disease that we can cure.”
You don’t have to do anything - hiccups will usually disappear after a few minutes or hours. Don’t let it bother you, especially if your little one isn’t.
8. "Huwag gupitin ang buhok hanggang mag-1 year old" This one is probably borne out of concern for likely accidents while cutting a baby’s hair rather than on some health or disease-related issue. While it is true that a baby’s hair undergoes plenty of changes in the first few months, it shouldn’t be affected by a simple trim or makeover. However, parents should know that a baby’s first mane is and probably will be very fleeting as it will change rapidly during the first few years of life. The quality of your baby’s hair depends more on genetics and how you care for it, not on any timeline when it should be cut.
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9. "Kalbuhin si baby para kumapal ang buhok" Again, the quality of your baby’s hair depends more on genetics and hair care. Cutting off all your baby’s hair does not guarantee that it will grow back thicker. There’s nothing wrong with doing it if you prefer the bald head look on your little one, but don’t keep your hopes up for thick locks if you and your husband both have thin hair. Dr. Faith further adds that parents can go ahead and do it if they want, but it will not really bear much result!
10. "Gupitin ang pilikmata para humaba" Countless baby girls have been subjected to this practice, and although some swear by it, there is no medical basis to it. Dr. Faith shares, “In my clinic, I give some slack to lolas who want to propagate a Pinoy tradition and I try to understand their beliefs, but if it poses even a single risk on the patient, I will be the first one to discourage it. Cutting the eyelashes has no basis and it poses horrendous risks on the baby.”
Without any scientific proof to its validity, putting a pair of scissors near your baby’s eyes is just a very dangerous thing to do. Your baby’s genes will have a more definite weight on whether she will have thick eyelashes than any cutting skill you may have.
References: 1 Foxman, E.F., Storer, J.A., Fitzgerald, M.E., Wasik, B.R., Lin, H., Hongyu, Z., Turner, P.E., Pyle, A.M., & Iwasaki, A. (2015). Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells. PNAS 2015, 112 (3), 827-832. From http://www.pnas.org/content/112/3/827.full.pdf. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonallergic-rhinitis/basics/causes/con-20026910 http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/ http://infectiousdiseases.about.com/od/respiratoryinfections/a/kissing.htm http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/illness-surgery/mom-illness/ http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/hiccup.html