Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 Winter Myths and Facts

I enjoy fact-checking things I hear or read that don't seem right. This has been known to annoy some family members who forward me emails of outrageous things that the government is doing or conspiracy theories or generally ridiculous claims without checking them first. They soon learn either to check things out before they forward them or perhaps they have just learned not to send them to me. I guess I ruin some of the "fun" but I can't help it.  I'm a natural skeptic.

Misconceptions such as old wives tales are oftentimes repeated and taken as fact as we don't always think about their validity.  I know that there are several things that I learned when I was young and believed that I never really thought about until much later. We really should stop and consider things - especially if they don't seem exactly right - and check into them before we take them as fact.

Here are some common beliefs we hear this time of year that deserve a second look.

  1. You lose 40 to 45% of your body heat through your head so you need to cover it when it is cold out. This one has been around for a long, long time! Even the authors of the US Army field manual in the 1970s fell for this one! The truth is that you don't lose more heat through your head than you do through other body parts.  Yes. You should wear a hat or hood to help keep warm but you should also cover other parts of your body for the same reason. 
  2. You will catch a cold if you get cold or stay outside too long.  I know this one isn't true but I catch myself thinking this way in spite of myself! Remember:  Colds are caused by being exposed to a cold virus.  You get a cold from someone who already has one himself not by getting cold or failing to cover up properly.
  3. Your car needs to be warmed up before you drive in cold weather to prevent damage to your engine. This is something that I wish my neighbors would learn is a myth!  I have to walk past their idling - and polluting - vehicle in the mornings on the way to work when this is doing them no good at all.  Modern vehicles with fuel-injection do not need to be warmed up before you drive - although I've read that if the temperature is below 20 degrees you should let it idle an extra minute before you drive. Idling your engine for more than a couple minutes is just a waste of gas.
  4. Chicken soup can help you get over your cold. There might actually be some truth to this one but the jury is still out. There may be something in this soup that helps us when we are sick and it might be more than just a placebo effect. None of the research is conclusive but two different studies seem to suggest that chicken soup might help us when we have a cold. In the meantime there is nothing bad about eating soup if you don't feel well while we wait for more studies to be conducted.  Personally, I'll skip the chicken part of the soup as I don't eat it but I find meatless soups to be just as soothing to me!
  5. Poinsettias are poisonous to humans and pets. I even thought this one was true until not too long ago. Turns out that they aren't poisonous but could cause some minor problems so they shouldn't be ingested. No. They aren't toxic enough to affect animals, either.

Image by Espen Faugstad and found here

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