top of page

Old Wive's Tales; Fact Or Fiction? 🤨

Here is another CST activities page which is discussion based.

Discuss each 'Old Wive's Tale' and decide amongst the group which are TRUE or FACT and which are FALSE or FICTION. Or, those which may have SOME basis in reality.

​An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

​Carrots help you see in the dark.

​Feed a cold, starve a fever.

​Rub a golden wedding ring on a stye.

​Cure hiccups by drinking a glass of water upside down.

​Wait an hour after eating before swimming.

​Don't go out in the cold with wet hair, or you'll get a cold.

​You should pee (or have someone pee) on a jellyfish sting.

​You should rub dock leaves on a nettle rash.

​Don't swallow gum; it'll stay in your stomach for seven years.

song break

​Pluck a grey hair and you'll get two back.

​Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.

​Never wake a sleepwalker.

​Sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind.

​White wine will remove a red wine stain.

​Eating chocolate causes acne.

Eating crusts will give you curly hair.

​Hair of the dog cures a hangover.

​We eat eight spiders in our sleep a year.

​Terrible things come in threes.

song break

Oily fish is brain food.

​Don't cross your eyes; they might stay that way.

​If you're pregnant and carrying high, your baby is a girl. Low and it's a boy.

​Eating a watermelon seed means the fruit will grow inside of you.

​Bulls hate the colour red.

​Always follow the five second rule (it's okay to eat something dropped on the floor before five seconds is up).

Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis.

​Eating spicy foods give you stomach ulcers.

​Eating turkey makes you tired.

​You lose most of your body heat through your head.

Can members think of any 'Old Wive's Tales' that aren't listed?




Thanks to Mr Google ...

The saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was coined in 1913 but was based on the original form with a different rhyme, some 149 years ago in Pembrokeshire: “Eat an apple on going to bed and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Disappointingly, evidence does not support that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; rather if one eats healthy foods, one will remain in good health and will not need to see the doctor so often.


​The saying "Carrots help you see in the dark" was a myth begun by the 'Air Ministry' in World War II. To prevent the Germans from finding out that Britain was using radar to intercept bombers on night raids, they issued press releases stating that British pilots were eating lots of carrots to give them exceptional night vision. This fooled the British public, as well as German High Command and an old wive’s tale was born.

However, carrots do contain vitamin A, or retinol, and this is required for your body to synthesise rhodopsin, which is the pigment in your eyes that operates in low-light conditions. If you have a vitamin A deficiency, you will develop nyctalopia or night blindness.


"Feed a cold; starve a fever." While you might not always feel like eating when you’re ill, your immune system needs the energy to help you recover quicker. Whether you have a cold or a fever (or both) your body will demand more calories so that it can produce immune cells. If you have the appetite, it’s a good idea to keep eating and feed a cold or a fever. As well as making sure that you’re eating well, you should stay hydrated while you’re ill.


DON'T rub your stye with a gold ring. This may sound obvious, but it is another persistent myth about treating this condition. Rubbing a ring near the eye can risk further infection as well as trauma to the delicate cornea of the eye.


Hiccup Cures are largely based on distraction or disruption to the operation of the vagus nerve.

  • Letting a spoonful of sugar dissolve on your tongue, tickling the roof of your mouth with a cotton bud, or sticking your fingers in your ears all stimulate branches of the vagus nerve, and the overload on other vagus nerve endings may put a stop to hiccups.

  • Being startled may suddenly overwhelm the vagus nerve.

  • Counting backwards from 100 requires concentration, which may divert your brain’s attention away from the hiccups.

  • Drinking water while maintaining uncomfortable body positions, such as bending over a sink and turning your head upside down while drinking from the tap, may distract your brain from the hiccups.

  • Briefly holding your breath, then swallowing the air a few times may disrupt the hiccup cycle. Sneezing may have a similar effect!

  • Holding your breath for as long as you can, blowing up a balloon, or breathing into a paper bag increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. The theory behind such actions is that your brain will focus on getting rid of the carbon dioxide because your risk of passing out will have increased, and again, will shift its attention away from the hiccups.


"Swimming after eating a meal". For recreational swimmers, the risk of getting cramps after eating is actually very low; your body has more than enough oxygen to share between your stomach and limbs. The real danger lies with those who eat huge meals before vigorous, triathlon-level exercise. Such cases can indeed lead to cramps and even vomiting.


"You'll get a cold from going outside with wet hair." Colds are caused by viruses, not by skipping the blow dryer. Studies have shown that the virus that causes the common cold can survive better in cold weather than it can in warm, which contributes to people getting sick more often during the winter.


​"You should pee (or have someone pee) on a jellyfish sting." Despite what you may have heard, it's a myth that peeing on a jellyfish sting does anything to ease the pain. Not only are there no studies to support this idea, but urine may actually worsen the sting, too. And, you'll smell of pee!


"​You should rub dock leaves on a nettle rash." Like many parents, you may have been brought up with the old wives' tale that the best thing to do is to rub a dock leaf onto the sting – surely that's why dock leaves always grow next to nettles? However, there is no scientific evidence that dock leaves help with nettle stings.


​"Don't swallow gum; it'll stay in your stomach for seven years." Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it generally isn't harmful if swallowed. Folklore suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. But this isn't true. However, if you do swallow gum, it is true that your body can't digest it.


​"Pluck a grey hair and you'll get two back." Plucking a gray hair will only get you a new gray hair in its place because there is only one hair that is able to grow per follicle. Your surrounding hairs will not turn white until their own follicles' pigment cells die. However, if you continue to pluck grey hairs as they return, you might cause trauma which stops the hair from growing back, so leading to thinning.


​"Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker." Shaving hair doesn't change its thickness, colour or rate of growth. Shaving facial or body hair gives the hair a blunt tip. The tip might feel coarse or "stubbly" for a time as it grows out. During this phase, the hair might be more noticeable and perhaps appear darker or thicker.


​"Never wake a sleepwalker." Although it is possible that waking a sleepwalker could be met with resistance or aggression, it is highly unlikely that the person doing the waking will be harmed. Instead, the sleepwalker could unknowingly jeopardize his own health if not deterred and helped back to bed. It is difficult and often unnecessary to wake a sleepwalker, but doing so may be the best option if the person refuses to return to bed with gentle guidance.


​"Sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind." There is no evidence that sitting too close to the TV can damage children's eyes. It may, however, lead to temporary eye strain. If your children are staring at TV, computer or videogame screens for a long time, there is a tendency for them not to blink, so it is best to sit back and have regular breaks.


​"White wine will remove a red wine stain." White wine lovers can rejoice. It has been a long running old wives tale that white wine will help remove red wine stains from carpets. Thanks to research carried out by the consumer magazine 'Which?' we now know that white wine when put through various tests, did a pretty bad job against the likes of good old Pinot Noir. Believe it or not, soda water is great for removing most any stain you may come across. The fizzing of the bubbles helps to break up the stain and the higher levels of acidity help remove alkaline wine stains.


​"Eating chocolate causes acne." Whilst the jury is still out on whether there is any truth to this idea, it has been established that a diet that is high in sugar or fat can encourage inflammatory responses in the body and increase the skin’s production of sebum, although an exact link to acne is not proven. To be on the safe side, it is better to follow a healthy diet. As with any skin condition, staying hydrated and consuming fruits and vegetables, oily fish and a generally well balanced diet is best.


"Eating crusts will give you curly hair." According to experts, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the idea that eating bread crust will make your hair curly. Furthermore, there is no proof that the consumption of bread crust alters the appearance of your hair at all.


​"Hair of the dog cures a hangover." The “hair of the dog” is a hangover remedy that involves drinking more alcohol to reduce hangover symptoms. While it may offer temporary relief, it only delays the inevitable, as the hangover will return once you stop drinking. This method may also increase your risk of alcoholism and is not recommended.


​"We eat eight spiders in our sleep a year." Luckily for all of us, the “fact” that people swallow eight spiders in their sleep yearly isn't true. Not even close. The myth flies in the face of both spider and human biology, which makes it highly unlikely that a spider would ever end up in your mouth.


"Terrible things come in threes." While it's been difficult to find the origins of 'bad luck comes in threes', psychologists argue that this belief persists because people crave certainty. By creating a limit on the events, e.g. three, we feel comforted because we see an end to a run of bad luck or deaths. However, there is no truth in the saying.


"Oily fish is brain food." Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain.


​"Don't cross your eyes; they might stay that way." When you cross your eyes for humour or amusement it may cause a few laughs but it will not cause permanent damage to your eyes and once you are done your eyes will return to normal placement.


​"If you're pregnant and carrying high, your baby is a girl. Low and it's a boy." Of course we know the sex of the child is determined at the time of conception. UAMS’ General Obstetrics explains that how a woman carries a child is not a good indicator of the sex of the child. Although male babies tend to be bigger, that shouldn’t affect the way they lay within the uterus. How a woman carries a child during pregnancy is more dependent on the mother’s uterus, rather than the gender of the baby.


​"Eating a watermelon seed means the fruit will grow inside of you." The old tale about a watermelon growing from a seed into a full-size fruit inside your belly is just a myth. The truth is that watermelon seeds — and other fruit seeds — will simply sail through your digestive system and be eliminated from your body over the course of a day or so.


​"Bulls hate the colour red." The color red does not make bulls angry. In fact, bulls are partially colour blind compared to healthy humans, so that they cannot see red. It is movement they are responding to.


​"Always follow the five second rule" (it's okay to eat something dropped on the floor before five seconds is up). The 'five-second rule' is a popular myth that's been around forever, but unfortunately, no, it's not a real rule we can follow. Eating food that's fallen to the ground does come with a risk of taking in bacteria known to cause food poisoning, so it's best avoided.


"Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis." The short answer is no. According to Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Dr. John Fackler, "There are no known detrimental effects to cracking your knuckles." At worst, knuckle-cracking may cause temporary swelling or a feeling of weakness in the hands — but arthritis, not quite.


​"Eating spicy foods give you stomach ulcers." It is a common misconception that stomach ulcers are the result of what we eat, such as spicy foods, or our lifestyle choices, such as stress. Although such factors do contribute to the susceptibility and worsening of the ulcer, the true causative agent would be the H. pylori bacteria.


​"Eating turkey makes you tired." Turkey contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that's often linked with sleep. It encourages serotonin production in your brain, and this makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. However, alcohol is also often consumed at the same time as eating turkey, so it's often a double whammy.


"You lose most of your body heat through your head." The truth is, you won't squander anywhere close to 50% of your body heat through an uncapped noggin. Will you lose some heat? Absolutely…but a 2008 study shows that it's more in the 10% range for adults. That figure makes sense, as it roughly matches the head's percentage of your body's total surface area.



3 x "TRUE"


23 x "FALSE"



You might also like ...

bottom of page