General News

Medical Myths Revealed

Posted on Oct 10, 2017

Dr. Patrick Mularoni

Oftentimes, parents hear stories from other parents and family members about medical issues that may or may not be true. This week, Patrick Mularoni, M.D., medical director of sports medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital addresses a few of those issues and helps parents learn if they are true or false.

FALSE: If someone hits their head you need to keep them awake.

This has been passed from generation through generation. There is nothing about keeping a child awake that helps him or her after suffering from a brain injury. This myth probably stems from two observations: the first is that a person with a serious brain injury will progress from a period of wakefulness through a period that resembles sleep as they get sicker and sicker. So a connection was made that individuals who fell asleep after a head injury had a worse outcome, but the truth is that the act of falling asleep was not what led to the bad outcome. The second reason why we may have this myth is because often patients with traumatic brain injury have a slow bleed around the brain or they have progressive swelling that happens over the first few hours after the accident. If you put a child to sleep and don’t check on him or her, you might not notice changes in the child’s condition. So the message for parents is that a child can fall asleep after a head injury, but you should closely observe them during the first few hours waking them up periodically to check their mental functioning.

FALSE: Gum stays in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it.

It is true that you can’t digest gum and break it down in the stomach or gastrointestinal track, but there is nowhere for gum to sit for seven years. This is the same for plastic and other non-food items that are swallowed. They normally pass through the gastrointestinal track in three to five days. So we don’t need you coming in the ER for swallowed gum, but other than toxic substances there are two items that should prompt you to come in if your child swallows them. The first is multiple magnets because they can stick together inside the intestines and the other is batteries because they can leak battery acid into the esophagus.

MOSTLY FALSE: Eating chocolate and fried foods gives you acne.

We know that acne is caused by several factors, a few of them being hormones and a high sugar and high fat diet. Now milk chocolate is both high in sugar and in fat so if all you ate was chocolate, then this could lead to increased oil production in the skin leading to acne. But can eating one chocolate bar lead to an acne breakout? In most people, it won’t. I think that this myth came from one of two observations. The first is that teens have more acne and less self-control with regards to their chocolate consumption so people assume a cause and effect. The second is that sometimes women crave chocolate at certain points in their menstrual cycle. The different balance of hormones in the body can lead to acne. Again, the chocolate is not likely to be the cause. Chocolate is okay in moderation, but if you are getting a craving for a chocolate fix, know that the best chocolate to eat is dark chocolate because of the anti-inflammatory benefits that it provides.

Read more from Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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