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Debunking Old Wives’ Tales

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Kids Health Watch is brought to you by our friends and Magnolia Springs Pediatrics


Anyone who has ever had a baby knows that other people LOVE to give you their opinion on raising your child. It can come from family members, friends, co-workers, and often strangers in the store. Of course, if you get ten different opinions, what do you get? Ten different answers!

At the end of the day, no one has bad intentions for raising your child, but indirectly, they can lead to confusion and stress and sometimes can cause harm! The statement “we did it when you were little, and you are fine” doesn’t cut it. Just because you specifically turned out okay doesn’t mean it was right. Today let’s review some common wives’ tales and how to address those issues with your child.

The most common confusion is with fever. Fever phobia is perpetuated by old wives’ tales stating that fever will cause brain damage and serious injury to your child. Of course, this is false. Fever is our body’s way of letting us know there is an infection, and it actually helps fight off that infection. A true fever is anything equal to or greater than 100.4 F, and anything less is NOT fever. There is no such thing as a low-grade fever! You either have a temperature of 100.4 F or greater or not!

You cannot tell a child’s temperature by touching their forehead. In addition, never “add a degree” to a temperature if taken under the arm. This myth has been spread by daycares and some healthcare workers and makes no sense. Finally, never alternate fever-reducing medications to lower the child’s temperature. This can be extremely dangerous. Instead, pick one and use it appropriately. In the end, it does not matter what the actual temperature value is. You either have a fever, or you don’t! What is most important is what other symptoms are going on with the fever.

Our next topic relates to the frequency of bathing a newborn. For the most part, they only have to be cleaned every few days. However, if it’s part of a working nighttime routine, go for it! Another myth says that bouncing or standing a baby on their legs will lead to “bow-leggedness.” This is false, so bounce away! And what about picking up your baby every time they cry? “You will spoil them!” they say. Again, this is false. Babies less than four months of age have limited self-soothing techniques. So, pick them up. It’s okay!

Finally, let’s discuss feeding. First, we never recommend water for babies under six months of age. It can mess up the electrolytes in an infant’s bloodstream and lead to seizures. Next, if your baby is on formula, it is NOT okay to start trying all the different types because your child is crying, gassy or spitting up. Most of these issues can be resolved with other methods. Each time you change a formula, it can take a week to get used to it. While some babies will need a different formula, the changes should be made by consulting your doctor. And giving rice cereal will not help a baby sleep through the night. It is especially important never to put rice cereal in a bottle.

So what do you do when someone gives you advice? Be polite, say thank you, and then call your doctor. Most times, it’s a simple yes or no, and that can make all the difference!


Robert L. Rux, M.D. is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Magnolia Springs Pediatrics. Originally from Mobile, he attended medical school at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB) and completed residency at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama (UAB).

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