From Flu Shots to Psychic Powers: Disproved Medical Myths

HEALTH

Maria Trimarchi

4 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Sometimes we hold on to ideas we are certain must be true, despite how many studies disprove them. From flu shots to germ theory to any other medical "fact" we've taken for granted, see if you can tell which is a medical myth.

Why can't you get the flu from a flu shot?

Many people believe they can get the flu from an influenza vaccination. But the reality is the flu vaccine contains dead influenza viruses (or none at all), and dead viruses can't give you the flu.

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Is it good advice to "feed a cold, starve a fever"?

"Feed a cold, starve a fever," may not be very good medical advice -- at least not the second part. As far back as 1574, we believed it was best to "starve a fever," but that may be the opposite of what you should be doing. Today we'd say, "feed a cold, feed a fever," because those calories are important for recovery.

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Does gum really stay in your stomach for seven years?

No, gum doesn't hang around your insides for seven years. It's true your body can't digest the gum resin in your gum, but it still gets passed through the digestive system just like food.

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What should you do if you feel tired while behind the wheel?

These popular remedies for drowsy driving aren't proven effective. What is? Pull over and take a short nap.

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How much water should you drink a day?

Drinking eight glasses (64 ounces) of water a day has been a rule of thumb, but there's no evidence it's the best way to stay hydrated. Instead, drink when you're thirsty -- and don't forget, there's water in fruits and vegetables!

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What can vitamin C help prevent?

While there is no evidence vitamin C will prevent or treat cataracts or the common cold, it is a standby for preventing scurvy.

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What will happen if you go to bed with wet hair?

Going to bed with wet hair won't do anything more than get your pillow wet.

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What percentage of our brains do we use?

Despite the popular belief that humans only use 10 percent of their brains, in reality, we use our whole brain.

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Is there such a thing as having too much fiber?

Fiber can help you get moving if you have mild constipation, but there's a limit. Too much can backfire, causing constipation.

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Are eggs healthy or unhealthy?

They aren't as high in cholesterol as we used to think, and experts say most people can safely eat one a day.

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Before saline was used during transfusions, what was widely used as a "blood substitute"?

During the late 19th century, between 1873 and 1880, U.S. doctors used milk from cows, goats and humans as a substitute for blood.

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Which is not a recommended way to replenish your vitamin D levels?

Spending time outside will increase your vitamin D levels, but because it also exposes you to damaging UV rays, it's not the best choice.

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Which was not one of the four humors described by Greek physician Hippocrates?

Ancient medical theory believed the four humors -- blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm -- were responsible for our wellness or illness.

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Today we know it's toxic to humans, but the ancient Greeks, Chinese alchemists and Renaissance physicians all used which heavy metal for healing patients?

For centuries, mercury was used as a common remedy.

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What was once believed to be the problem with a woman's uterus when she was suffering from "hysteria" and other conditions?

Ancient Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia once called the womb "an animal within an animal." Plato and Hippocrates also believed it to be able to move around a woman's abdomen, independently. The womb's ability to "wander" was thought to cause illnesses such as hysteria in women. Some experts tried scent therapy and even shouting at it as a cure.

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According to the miasmatic theory, what were infectious diseases such as cholera and plague caused by?

Before germ theory, we had miasmatic theory, which explained that infectious diseases such as cholera and plague were caused by "miasmas" or "bad air."

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Over hundreds of years, and especially popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans ate fresh human remains as part of which type of medicine?

It was corpse medicine practices that had Europeans eating such things as human-blood marmalade to treat diseases of the blood and ground up skull to treat headaches.

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Reading in which kind of light can cause permanent eye damage?

Reading in low-light environments can cause eye strain, but there is no proof it can permanently hurt you. Bright, task lighting offers the best light for reading.

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Which is not a cause of miscarriage?

Chromosomal abnormalities are the No. 1 cause of miscarriage among American women, making it just bad luck.

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What tobacco product was once used to attempt to resuscitate drowning victims?

While there was a time when liquid tobacco enemas were used to treat hernias, in the 18th century tobacco-smoke enemas were used in attempts to resuscitate drowning victims.

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What substance did medieval physicians use to diagnose their patients?

Physicians practicing in medieval Europe would have used your urine for diagnosing what ails you.

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How did physicians in the 18th and 19th centuries treat stuttering?

Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, stutterers were subjected to hemiglossectomies, a procedure where doctors cut off part (sometimes as much as half) of their patient's tongue.

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Which vaccine is proven to cause autism?

This myth began in 1998, but there is no scientifically proven association between any vaccine and autism.

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What was not an ingredient in Sir Kenelm Digby's Powder of Sympathy, a powder used to treat rapier wounds in the 17th century?

The Powder of Sympathy, applied to the weapon and not to the wound, was made of earthworms, iron oxide, pigs' brains and bits of mummified corpses, all ground into a powder.

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What about our cellphones caused them to be banned (or turned off) around hospital equipment?

Because it was feared they would interfere with the electromagnetic fields generated by equipment, hospitals considered banning cellphones.

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Between 1943 and 1970, if a mother was considered "cold" or lacking maternal warmth, what would she have been called?

Between 1943 and 1970, women who were deemed to lack a certain maternal warmth were blamed for causing their child's autism.

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Which has the highest levels of Thanksgiving nap-inducing tryptophan?

Among cheddar cheese, pork tenderloin and turkey, the pork tenderloin contains the most tryptophan.

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Which is not a cause of hyperactivity in children?

Although many people believe it, there is no scientific evidence supporting sugar as a cause of hyperactivity.

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L&M cigarettes were marketed as, "just what the doctor ordered!" What other brand of cigarette was once endorsed by or otherwise associated with physicians?

Camels, Chesterfields, Lucky Strikes and many other brands were once marketed with endorsements from doctors.

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What was conversion therapy used to treat?

Conversion therapy was used to "cure" homosexuality, and its methods were designed to change a person's sexual orientation to heterosexual.

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What causes a stomach ulcer?

Alcohol, spicy foods and stress were all once implicated in causing peptic ulcers. But the real culprit is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

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What theory was psychologist Daryl Bem studying when he published the results of nine experiments, called "Feeling the Future"?

Daryl Bem was studying human psychic abilities in his experiments.

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What was the theory that suggested a pregnant woman's emotional state could cause birth defects?

The theory of maternal impression, which fell out of favor during the 19th century, suggested a pregnant woman's emotions could directly influence her developing baby, from birth defects to personality traits.

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Which has been called "the slickest, most sophisticated, and certainly the most remunerative cancer quack promotion in medical history"?

Amygdalin, which is both ineffective and toxic, can be found promoted as a cure for cancer.

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What theory uses skull measurements to determine a person's personality traits and intelligence?

Popular in the 19th century, phrenology was the study of a person's character and intelligence based on the measurements of their skull.

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