6 Worrying Health Myths

Health myths: Don’t believe everything you read: Internet Scambusters #598

Health myths can be relatively harmless when they concern non-serious conditions, but sometimes they can waste time or even threaten life.

This week, we highlight six common myths currently or recently circulating on the Internet, with two simple rules on how to avoid them.

Plus, we have a warning on the potential dangers of visiting a private address in response to an online ad.

Let’s get started…


6 Worrying Health Myths


Health myths have been with us for centuries, maybe even for thousands of years, and some of them may even contain elements of truth.

But the age of the Internet has given new life, not only to popular and common beliefs about causes, cures and treatments, but it has also spawned a new generation of reports that at best can be unproven or misleading, at worst downright dangerous.

In this area, there’s often a narrow line between fact, conjecture and falsehood. The “jury is still out” on some claims.

This jumble of opinions is particularly the case in the debate about prevention and treatment of serious diseases.

For example, we all know that eating the right food can contribute to improved health, but many myths go beyond this by making unsubstantiated and sometimes radical claims.

Health Myth #1

The first questionable health myth is the long-standing claim that placing a red onion in a room, with the top and bottom of the vegetable sliced off, will ward off germs and prevent you catching a cold or even the flu.

Though some people swear by this, and the story is said to have been around for 500 years, there’s absolutely no evidence that an onion can work this kind of magic — other than the word of individuals who swear it’s true!

Health Myth #2

A new variant of the claim, in a currently circulating email, claims that placing onion slices on the soles of the feet and then covering them with socks can cure unspecified illnesses. Try that one at your own risk — but don’t expect your friends to hang around!

Health Myth #3

It may not have been about as long as 500 years, but another health myth that’s certainly endured for decades is the notion that kidney dialysis centers will accept soda can pull tabs as payment for treatment.

As far back as 1998, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) declared: “We’ve recently seen a dramatic upswing in calls from people asking where they can exchange the aluminum pull tabs they’ve been collecting.

“There’s no such thing as a tabs-for-dialysis program. It wouldn’t ever be necessary because Medicare typically pays for 80% of the cost of dialysis time, regardless of the age of the patient. Private insurance and state programs usually pay for the remaining 20%.”

Health Myth #4

Sadly, the story doesn’t end there though because, in the last few months, we’ve seen emails claiming that Coca Cola will pay for a chemotherapy session for a cancer sufferer for every 1,000 tabs sent in to them. Not true.

From time to time though, various groups have tried to convert the pull tab hoax into something positive by actually collecting tabs and using the recycling proceeds for charitable purposes.

But bear this in mind: The recycled value of 100 tabs is about 3 cents. Mailing them in can easily cost more than their value, so unless there’s a drop-off location near you, your charitable aims may be misdirected.

Health Myth #5

Another common health myth currently doing the rounds says contact lenses can fuse to your eyeballs if you stare at a fire or barbecue, and can cause blindness. It’s a hoax.

This myth is often accompanied by either a supposed report of someone being taken to hospital after such an incident or an untrue story of a welder who suffered this fate.

Health Myth #6

Finally, a story that bears witness to the power of social media networks to spread rumors like wildfire that, over time, gain credibility and eventually become accepted “truths.”

This was a report that originally surfaced on Twitter that claimed it was possible to control weight via a program called “managed anorexia.”

The author of this tweet quickly admitted it was a hoax that was intended to demonstrate how Twitter could be used to spark a trend. He proved his point but incurred a lot of anger along the way.

How to Avoid the Myths

You’ve probably encountered other health myths in your time — sometimes delivered with good intentions, sometimes with malice.

Either way, there are two simple rules for avoiding the negative consequences:

First, don’t believe everything you read, even if it seems to come from an authoritative source.

Second, and most important, where serious conditions are concerned, always seek the advice of a health professional.

Health myths can make interesting and sometimes amusing stories but they’re not a foundation for personal wellbeing.

Alert of the week: A contractor was recently robbed at knifepoint after responding to an online ad that he thought would lead him to some work. Set meetings in public places when you respond to an ad. At a minimum, take someone with you when you visit a private address in response to an ad.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!