Health and safety tips you learned in school that are totally bogus

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You assume that everything you learn in school is true. No matter what else happens in life, at the end of the day, two plus two will always equal four and gravity will always keep us on the ground. As it turns out, though, some of the things you learn in school are less than totally accurate. Even if your health teachers meant well, there are a lot of things that nearly everyone learned, especially regarding health and safety, that aren't necessarily true. For instance, gum does not sit in your stomach for seven years if you accidentally swallow it. And though it may make you feel safer, well-lit areas aren't less susceptible to crime than dark places. If those facts blow your mind, these other totally bogus health and safety tips will too.


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

As a child, you'd hear the mantra "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" over and over again, both from your health teachers and your parents. So is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? The jury's still out on that one. For some people, eating a balanced breakfast is important to maintaining a healthy weight. And other people just aren't hungry in the morning. Eating when hungry is important to refueling your body, so just do what's right for you. But if you are eating first thing in the morning, be sure you're avoiding these common breakfast mistakes.

Call a friend when walking home late at night

Whether you were studying at the library until 3 a.m. or partying until the bars closed, chances are you had more than a few late nights in college and you'd have to get home. Perhaps your RA or friends gave you this piece of advice: Call a close friend on your way home and tell them your location. Talking on the phone will discourage attackers, and in case something bad does happen, somebody will know where you were and will be able to contact authorities. In fact, this is less-than-great advice. Talking on the phone may leave you distracted and even more susceptible to attacks. Instead of talking or texting when heading home late at night, be aware of your surroundings and keep your phone nearby, with authorities on speed dial.

Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis

Your grandma and teachers would always tell you: Don't crack your knuckles, because it will lead to arthritis. But that is simply not true. According to Cedars-Sinai, the "pop" of knuckles cracking is just nitrogen bubbles popping in your joints, and any relief you feel from this action is mental more so than physical. The worst thing cracking your knuckles will actually lead to is that you will just annoy the people around you.

Don't slap someone on the back if they're choking

Whether or not you should slap someone on the back when they're choking has been the subject of debate for decades. Some maintain that giving five strong back blows when they're choking could actually make the food lodge further down their throat. Instead, one should opt for the Heimlich maneuver, which involves abdominal thrusts. However, back blows being "death blows" has not been proven. Today, the American Red Cross recommends a "five and five" technique for choking victims. After getting their consent, do five back blows, followed by five abdominal thrusts, and repeat until the object has been dislodged.

Don't swallow your gum

As long as chewing gum has been around, parents and teachers have been telling children not to swallow gum. Rumor has it, your body can't digest gum, so it just sits in your stomach for seven years. Turns out, that's only half-true. Some of the nutrients and the sugar from gum are absorbed into your small intestine. The indigestible part of the gum, just like other things your body can't process, will pass through your system.

Drinking coffee will stunt your growth

Children are often dissuaded from drinking coffee by their elders for one major reason: It will reportedly stunt your growth. But according to Harvard Health Publishing, that myth simply is not true. The "coffee will make you short" rumor started because it was believed that caffeine would diminish the amount of calcium in a child's bones and cause osteoporosis. However, the effect of caffeine on calcium excretion is negligible. Instead, the increase in osteoporosis among coffee drinkers may simply be because java fans are drinking less milk and juice in the morning, opting for black coffee instead. In fact, coffee is said to have many health advantages and there are plenty of reasons that you should drink coffee every day.

Duck and cover

During the Cold War, children in schools were taught to "duck and cover" in the case of a nuclear event. This maneuver taught kids to run under their desks and maintain the fetal position. This was thought to be effective because the No. 1 concern from a nuclear blast was glass and other debris flying through the air, as well as heat. Of course, today we know about the far more dangerous effects of actual nuclear radiation, which covering your face with your hands will do little to protect against.


The five-second rule

Every day, the school cafeteria fills with exclamations of "Five second rule!" as kids drop their cookies, sandwiches and chips on the ground. The idea behind the five-second rule is that it takes a moment or so for germs to collect on your food. But the five-second rule is a myth. According to a study from 2016, bacteria and germs spread onto your food the moment it hits the ground. And certain types of food will gather more bacteria than others. A fresh piece of bread covered in jelly will gather more germs than a dry piece of toast, for instance.

The food pyramid is the ultimate guide to nutrition

If you went to school in the '90s, you'll remember the food pyramid, which advised six to 11 servings of grains a day, three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruit, two to three servings of dairy, two to three servings of protein and the use of fats, oils and sweets "sparingly." However, the food pyramid was confusing. You see, two to three servings of meat was the maximum recommended, while two to four servings of fruit was the minimum. Also, what dictated a "serving" was less than clear. Today, the USDA uses MyPlate, which recommends a diet consisting of 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits and 20 percent protein along with a side of dairy per day.

Ignore the bullies

Just ignore your bullies and they'll leave you alone! That's what teachers and parents would tell you in school. However, this is ineffective against persistent bullies. Bullying, after all, is all about power dynamics. Instead of ignoring bullies or hoping the problem will go away, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends encouraging kids to speak to trusted adults about bullying, stand up to bullies by using humor or saying "Stop" repeatedly and knowing when to walk away. The best way to prevent bullying is to encourage confidence and extracurricular activities for children and keeping the lines of communication open.

'Just say no'

Any child of the '80s or '90s knows the best way to avoid a life of drugs and crime is to "just say no." D.A.R.E. and other similar programs were an integral part of the middle school experience. However, multiple studies have shown that anti-drug ad campaigns "had no favorable effects on youths' behavior." Turns out, drug addiction is a lot more complicated than simply saying "yes" or "no" to an offer of marijuana or cocaine.

Well-lit areas are safer

When walking home at night, chances are you're going to stick to well-lit streets and pathways. Lighted pathways don't just make you feel safer, they are safer, right? Turns out, there's not much evidence to prove that lit paths are actually the safer option. Some studies have found that there is a link between more lighting and reduced crime, but when lights were installed, there was less crime during the day as well, so lighting may not have been the only factor. Other studies have shown that when lights are dimmed or turned off, there is no increase in crime.

Put your keys between your fingers for self-defense

If you're walking home alone at night, one way to help fend off a potential attacker is to create a so-called "Wolverine claw" by placing your keys between your fingers. However, this is not the most effective form of self-defense. You see, if your attacker is close enough for you to punch them this way, you're already out of luck, and this claw technique could hurt your own hand. A better way to travel is by keeping your keys on a longer keychain or carabiner, where you could swing all your keys at an attacker.

Staying out in the cold will give you a cold

When it was winter, you probably spent your recess indoors. After all, spending time outside in the cold or rain will make you sick, right? Wrong. In fact, theories claim that people don't get sick more often in winter not because of the cold, but because they spend more time indoors in close quarters, where germs are more likely to spread from person to person. If your roommate, spouse or child is sick, you're probably better off venturing into the snow than sitting next to them on the couch. Thinking otherwise is a common cold and flu myth you should stop believing.

Sugar makes kids hyper

Your health teacher and your mom always told you: You can't have that delicious piece of candy because it'll make you hyper. This is more about expectation than reality, however. A 1995 study actually debunked the sugar/hyperactivity connection. After analyzing 16 studies on sugar's effects in children, the conclusion was reached that "sugar does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children." So, yes, it really is OK to eat sugar!

Wait 30 minutes after eating to swim

It's one of the classic old wives' tales: You should wait 30 minutes after eating to take a dip in the pool because as your body digests food, you're more likely to get cramps and drown. Luckily for people who like to eat backyard burgers and then dive into the water, this is pure myth. According to Snopes, this myth started in a 1908 handbook "Scouting for Boys," which stated you had to wait an hour and a half after eating, lest you get a cramp, drown and die. However, these stomach cramps caused by digestion aren't even a proven fact and even if they were, even the worst charley horse wouldn't cause you to slip underneath the waves.

When you're driving, the best place to ride out a tornado is under a bridge

You're driving in your car, and suddenly an alert comes on the radio: There's a tornado in your area, and oh no, you've just spotted it! While some teachers have told you that it's best to take cover under the bridge, hiding under an overpass or bridge is actually one of the most dangerous spots. A tornado can send debris underneath the structure, you and your car could become debris swept up into the tornado, or the entire structure could collapse, crushing you. The safest place to be during a tornado is indoors, so if you're driving, try to take shelter. If you cannot, get out of your car, get as far away from the road as possible and find a low spot to lay down in.

You need to take a multivitamin every day

There are a lot of things you need to know before taking a multivitamin. And one of the very first things is: You probably don't need to take a multivitamin! There isn't much evidence that most people benefit from taking a multivitamin. Instead, it's smart to follow a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. In fact, if you eat these foods, you'll never need a multivitamin.

You're safe from lightning in the car

Lightning strikes can be dangerous, especially when you're in a metal car. But the rubber tires will protect you, right? Wrong. It doesn't matter if there's rubber beneath your car when you're surrounded by a conductor. Don't assume you're safe in your car during a lightning storm. The best thing to do is to pull to the side of the road, turn your car off and keep your hands in your lap.

You should walk 10,000 steps a day

Fitness trackers, from Apple Watches to Fitbits, are everywhere now. And a lot of those trackers sing a magical little song when you hit 10,000 steps on a given day. But this number is totally made up! The number was devised by a Japanese pedometer company as a marketing stunt to promote their device, and the number has since become canon. If you believed you need to walk 10,000 steps a day, don't worry. There are plenty of other health and diet myths out there.

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