Don’t Starve that Cold (or Fever): Medical Myths Exposed!

Recently I have received a lot of questions about what is fact or fiction when it comes to dealing with your child’s health.  This week let me tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about several health myths.

For example, parents ask me if you need to feed a cold and starve a fever, or is it starve a cold and feed a fever?  Actually, both colds and fevers result in your losing fluids from your body and running a risk of dehydration, so it’s important that your children  both eat and drink as much as they are able to gain the nutrients they need to get better and to prevent dehydration.

It is also not true that if you go outside with wet hair or without a jacket on, you’ll catch a cold. You catch colds from viruses, which are spread when people are in close contact with each other – which occurs more easily indoors and not outdoors, so wet hair and no jacket does not increase your child’s chances of getting a cold.

Many parents believe that a baby who wears shoes or uses an infant walker will learn to walk sooner.  This too is not true.  Keeping a baby barefoot will strengthen the foot muscles and help him or her to walk sooner.  Infant walkers have been found to actually slow development rather than hasten it, by preventing a baby from seeing his or her feet and thus hampering coordination, not to mention the accidents that can occur from falls down stairs due to walkers.

Finally, let me say a word about those rumors surrounding your eyes – such as reading in dim light or watching TV too close to the screen will hurt your vision.  Neither are true.  Dim lighting may cause the eyes to feel fatigued, but will not decrease vision. Watching TV close to the screen may mean your child is near-sighted, but not because watching television has caused that problem.  Although, watching too much television will take away from time your child could spend improving their mental and physical well-being by reading and exercising. 

Hopefully tips like this will keep you from “myth-ing out” when it comes to knowing what is myth and what is fact when it comes to knowing more about your children’s health. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at