Sussing out old wives’ tales with Gleneagles Hospital’s, Dr. Justin Chai

By Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Writer | Images by Freepik

Being raised in a southeast Asian culture, we most definitely grew up as kids surrounded by old wives’ tales being passed down intergenerationally. Whether it’s your grandmother saying, “The amount of rice you leave on your plate will be the same number of pimples on your future partner’s face!” or “Don’t shower late at night because you will masuk angin!”

With help from Dr. Justin Chai from the Emergency and Trauma Department at Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu, we’re going to breakdown these old wives’ tales from a purely medical professional standpoint. So, read on! You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

1. Don’t sit too close to the television or it’ll ruin your eyes. A: This is a saying we’ve heard many times from our parents even when we were young. Sitting too close and watching television or any screen in this matter isn’t good for one’s vision.

Prolonged straining of the eyes will cause vision problems. Such problems are related to the refractory error in our eyes, causing our vision to become a blur or short-sightedness that requires spectacles to correct this impairment.

2. Don’t read in the car… It’s unhealthy for your eyes. A: Again, it would strain our eyes to focus on something for some time and it can cause discomfort and related visual problems. Reading something for a short while shouldn’t be a problem in this case.

3. Cracking your knuckle causes “Arthritis”. A: Hearing a crack sound when moving our joints are normal and aren’t harmful to us. However, if intentionally and forcefully doing it all the time will cause you pain and it might hurt your joints too. If someone keeps on doing this, the pain and swelling will eventually reduce the joint space and it may cause osteoarthritis (inflammation at the bone and joint).

4. Having ice-cream while you’re sick will make it worse. A: This is a saying we hear from our parents and elders very often as well. I think it’s got to do with our Asian roots and beliefs. Medically, there shouldn’t be any problem with eating or drinking anything cold as our internal temperature is set at 36.6ºC – 37ºC. 

However, for some children or people who have asthma that can be triggered by a cold, it would be advised not to take any cold drinks or food at any time. For some children with a high fever and bad sore throat, some doctors would even recommend that they have some ice-cream to reduce the pain and swelling in the throat.

5. You can’t cut your toenails and fingernails at night. A: I think I’ve heard this before but not sure what is the reasoning or rationale behind this. If it’s a superstition and you believe in it then you should avoid doing it. In fairness, when cutting your toenails and fingernails at night under poor lighting would make you prone to injuries. Trimming off fingernails and toenails should be done in a well-lit area to prevent this.

6. Don’t wash your hair at night or you’ll catch a cold. A: Well, we all often feel the need to take a shower when we feel dirty or sweaty. This is most likely due to our hot and humid weather here in Malaysia. Taking a shower and washing your hair at any time shouldn’t be a problem. We just need to make sure that we properly dry ourselves afterward. If we let our hair be wet or damp while we go to bed in an air-conditioned room, this may cause hypothermia and increase the risk of falling sick later.

7. If you swallow chewing gum, it’ll be in your digestive system for years. A: Everyone should be careful when chewing on gum, it isn’t meant to be swallowed. However, sometimes we might accidentally do so. Chewing gum candy is an edible product that has been approved by the FDA and therefore is safe for consumption. However, we must remember that the sugars in the chewing gum candy are digestible, where else the gum component will take a long time to be fully digested. If you do accidentally swallow the chewing gum, do not panic it will eventually come out of your system the next time your bowels move in the toilet. It won’t remain for years.

8. Don’t get caught in ‘hujan panas’ or it’ll make you ill. A: A little rain won’t hurt anyone. Again, it’s about keeping ourselves dry. Wet clothes from the rain might cause hypothermia and this will increase our risk of getting sick later.

9. Eating too many chocolates will give you acne. A: Wow, this is the first time I’m hearing this. Too much of something is always not good. We all like eating chocolates and do so from time to time. However, excessively eating too many chocolates or candy will cause increased calories and are very high in sugars. In the
long run, this will predispose a person to develop obesity and diabetes.

10. Eating too many carrots will turn you orange. A: Carrots are a good source of vitamins and other nutrients. Carrots do contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which is good for our eyes, skin, and nails. However, by eating excessive amounts, it can cause a yellowish discoloration of the skin (known as ‘carotenemia’) which is most noticeable on the palms and soles of the feet. So nope, you will not turn orange in this case.

You may contact Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital at 088-518 888 or visit the hospital at Riverson at Sembulan. Visit their website at Follow them on Facebook for latest updates. 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

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