Dec 23, 2014 7:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs


You’re sure to hear a lot of good stories around the holidays. But as you know: “Not everything you hear this time of year is true,” says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician at University of Utah Health. “Conventional wisdom needs a revision sometimes.”

From supposedly poisonous plants to the misconceptions about catching a cold, our expert reveals the surprising truths about four common winter myths.

myths holiday health family health

4 Holiday Myths

Myth: Poinsettias are poisonous.

Go ahead, pretty up your doorway with its festive red and green colors—the poinsettia plant is not toxic. “Eating the leaves isn’t going to be harmful, though their sap will cause a slight rash,” Gellner says. “Be sure not to touch your eyes if you have the sap on your hands, as it will burn.”

Myth: It’s safe to eat snow.

For several reasons, this is not a good idea. Even snow that looks clean can contain pollutants, dirt or fecal matter. Plus, eating too much of the white stuff will lower your body temperature.

Myth: Turkey makes you sleepy.

It’s the tryptophan, we’re told, that causes the typical post-meal desire to snooze. However, turkey doesn’t contain any more of it than chicken or beef. “More likely, sleepiness is caused by eating a large meal,” Gellner says.

Myth: Not wearing a jacket outside will give you a cold.

Despite its name, the common cold has nothing to do with body temperature. Colds and flu come exclusively from viruses. “Many believe that going outside not properly dressed or with wet hair on a cold day will worsen cold symptoms,” Gellner says. “But if you’re going outdoors to exercise, you’re lowering your risk of sickness, not increasing it.

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