As a pediatrician, parents are constantly asking me about parenting advice they’ve heard from friends and family members. I got so many questions, in fact, that my colleagues and I came up with a list of myths, including marketing claims, old-wives tales, superstitions and grandmotherly advice, that parents have passed on to us.
Some of these myths were funny, some were dangerous and some were designed with one purpose: to make some manufacturer out there a lot of money. But we wondered if there was any evidence that these myths and stories were true. And how could we debunk the false tips to help parents take better care of their children and stop them from wasting their hard-earned money?
One popular myth pediatricians hear is that teething causes fever, so let’s start there. Teething has a long history in medicine. Fever, diarrhea, infection and death have all been attributed to the first breakthrough of primary teeth in babies.
There was a point in history where lancing the gums was considered a treatment for this so-called ailment. After reviewing a parent’s report of symptoms, measurements of fever and having a pediatric dentist look for signs of tooth eruption, no connection between teething and any of these conditions was discovered. So why do parents continue to believe this myth? I think it is because tooth eruption occurs over the months and years when many other childhood illnesses also occur.
Teething may change an infant’s food preferences for the bottle or solid food. Additionally, putting various objects in the mouth to relieve the teething pain can expose the infant to viruses that may cause a runny nose or diarrhea. That does not mean, however, that tooth eruption itself is responsible for diarrhea or congestion. The only connection that exists is of some children experiencing ear pain when their molars come in. This may be due to swelling in and around the Eustachian tube.
This is just one example of the type of myths we studied and, in this case, debunked. There are hundreds out there, with more being created every day. My colleagues and I have addressed many of the most common ones, and we will continue to find the answers to parent’s most pressing concerns.
World-renowned pediatrician Marc Weissbluth and Daniel Weissbluth are the creators of the Weissbluth Method Parent Myth App currently featuring 33 popular parent myths. It is available for free on the iPhone, iPad and iTouch platforms running iOS 3.0 or later.