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Mother's Day Special: Dr. Hilary's Guide To Health Superstitions

Published : Thursday March 27, 2014 | Posted in : General Health
Dr. Hilary Jones

Remember those sayings our mothers recited to us to encourage us to stay healthy? They may have seemed bizarre at the time but many of them turn out to hold remarkable nuggets of truth, particularly those that concern the world of health.

With Mother’s Day nearly upon us, we asked a number of successful blogging Mums to share their favourite health superstitions with us. Some are unusual remedies picked up over the years while others are a little more traditional. To extract the facts from each myth, we asked HealthExpress Medical Advisor, Dr. Hilary Jones for his expert medical opinion and here’s what he reported:

I've personally subscribed to the notion that a curry has magical properties when you have a cold. Is there any truth to this?

Sally Whittle of Who's The Mummy

Dr. Hilary says...

I totally agree that enjoying a hot curry is a good symptomatic treatment for a head cold. In fact, it is one of my favourite remedies. There is nothing magical about the nutritional content of a curry, as it is the spice which decongests the blocked tubes. The spice acts as an irritant to inflamed and congested nasal passages and the throat, allowing mucus to disperse and soreness to settle. This is no different to the way your nose runs normally, after eating a hot curry, but there is no evidence that this popular dish has any effect on the cause of the cold itself.

"Is it true that putting Vaseline under your nose can help hay fever symptoms?

Sally Whittle of Who's The Mummy

Dr. Hilary Jones says...

It is practically impossible to avoid all the pollen grains, tree allergens or mould spores that trigger outbreaks of hay fever, but there are still ways of reducing your exposure to them. A decent set of net curtains over the windows (such as those from Tyrone Textiles) wrap-around sunglasses and vaseline in the nostrils can all achieve this, but the latter is not really a cosmetically attractive look as you say. The allergens will still get into your ears and mouth so I am not convinced either of its practical value.

I never have a bath after I've eaten as I'm convinced that if I do I will have a heart attack and die. Is there any truth to this?

Jo Middleton of Slummy Single Mummy

Dr. Hilary Jones says...

When you enjoy a hot bath, blood from your central circulation is diverted to your skin. This is so that your body can lose heat from the dilated vessels. When you have a meal, blood is diverted from your central circulation to your digestive system so your food can be processed and absorbed. Both these things together will reduce your blood pressure, especially when you bath immediately after the meal. You may feel faint and dizzy and you may even see stars and black out if you jump out of the bath too quickly under these circumstances. But unless you have pre-existing heart disease, you will not have a heart attack and nor will you die.

When I was at University someone told me that the best cure for a hangover or a headache was to squeeze your big toe (or even better, get someone else to squeeze it for you).’ Is there any truth to this unusual headache remedy?

Emma Button of Mellow Mummy

Dr. Hilary Jones says...

There is no reason whatsoever why squeezing your big toe would abolish the symptoms of a hangover. It might distract you from your throbbing headache for a few short seconds, but the head rush as you bend down to do the squeezing is more likely than not to make matters worse. Your friends at University must still have been under the influence of alcohol when they suggested this remedy!

Does cheese before bed give you nightmares and if so, why?

Vicki Psarias of Honest Mum

Dr. Hilary Jones says...

Many people report an increase in the number of vivid dreams and nightmares they experience when they have eaten cheese in the evening. This may be because of the high content of tyramine in cheese which can be metabolised in the body to form neurotransmitters acting as stimulants in the brain. I would suggest that you have a warm milky drink instead, as this might have the opposite effect which is calming and sedating instead of stimulating.

I've heard that eating honey prevents Hayfever and with summer on the way it would be handy to know how truthful this is, how it works and how much you should eat.

Emma Garratt of The Mini Mes and Me

Dr. Hilary Jones says...

Naturopaths, homeopaths and herbalists are keen advocates of locally produced honey to ease hay-fever symptoms. The theory is that traces of flower pollen introduced to the honey by the bees which pollenate the plants and allow it to be incorporated into the honey they produce help to desensitise hay-fever sufferers from their allergy. Unfortunately, medical evidence for this is distinctly lacking although it is an idea that local honey producers love to propagate.

Some interesting discoveries here! Dr. Hilary has used his many years of experience to help each Mum blogger unearth the scientific basis for their health remedy or myth. Many of these remedies can genuinely help with symptoms while others may have been jumbled up on the path from one generation to the next.

All the team at HealthExpress are keen to hear any other health superstitions that you abide to. Please leave a comment below and we will try our best to get a response from Dr. Hilary.

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