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See, Mom, I Told You So

March 23, 1998

It's not that your parents were wrong, exactly. Let's just say they were misguided when they told you that reading in dim light would ruin your eyes. Or that cracking your knuckles would give you arthritis. According to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, these are among the myths of raising healthy children that have been passed down from generation to generation. Others include:

* Sick children should not be bathed.

In reality, it's good to bathe a child who is sick to keep the body germ-free.

* Sugar causes hyperactivity.

Repeated research published in medical journals tends to disprove this theory. These studies find no discernible difference in behavior between children who eat sugar and those who don't. However, in rare instances, some children's behavior can be adversely affected by sugar.

* Standing too early will bow a baby's legs.

Years ago, this belief did have some legitimate basis when children suffered from rickets, a vitamin D deficiency that caused softening of the bones--and ultimately bowing. Today, rickets has all but disappeared, and there is no danger that standing will bow your baby's legs.

* Children must eat all their vegetables.

Vitamin deficiencies are extremely rare, and it's unlikely that children will harm themselves by not eating vegetables. It is important to serve well-balanced meals, but you don't have to fight daily battles over children eating all their vegetables.

* Mothers who are breast-feeding should not eat garlic or onions.

It used to be believed that eating highly flavored foods while breast-feeding made an infant more "fussy" and caused gas and upset stomach. Not true. In fact, a study that monitored the eating habits of nursing mothers showed babies seemed to prefer milk when their mothers ate garlic--they even nursed for longer periods and actually gained more weight.

* Going outside with wet hair can cause a cold.

Actually, viruses, not chilly, wet weather or drafts, cause colds.

* Feeding infants cereal at night makes them sleep longer.

Bedtime cereal does not increase sleep duration in infants. Most pediatric-sleep researchers say long-term sleep is a function of the maturing nervous system and temperament. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, cereal and other solids should not be started until 4 to 6 months of age to reduce the risk of allergies and obesity.

* When in a car, the safest place for a child is in an adult's arms.

Absolutely not. The back seat of a vehicle is the safest place for a child of any age to ride. It is imperative, however, for children to be placed in the proper restraint, either an approved car seat or, for children older than 4 or more than 40 pounds, in a seat belt.

* Too much television stunts the healthy growth of a child's brain.

Numerous claims have been made that television viewing could have detrimental effects on brain development. An extensive review of the published scientific literature turns up no evidence that this is true. Parents should, however, continue to monitor the amount and content of television their kids watch as it can lead to obesity from lack of exercise and may influence behavior.

* An only child is lonelier than a child with siblings.

Only children are likely to be as happy and well-adjusted as children with siblings.

*

For the free brochure "The Truth About Pediatric Myths," in English or Spanish, write to Pediatric Myths, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Public Affairs Office, 4650 Sunset Blvd., MS#59, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

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