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Medical Myths Debunked

Medical Myths Debunked


Green or yellow mucus means that I am sick with an infection.


Have you ever been congested and sneezing and wondered if it’s allergies or an infection? Then a friend asks you to check what color the mucus is when you blow your nose? Despite popular belief, this may not be a reliable test.

According to Tiffany Trinh, MD, an internal medicine physician with the Torrance Memorial Physician Network, the presence of mucus with a greenish or yellowish tint does not always signify that a person is sick or has an infection.

“Our body secretes mucus to protect us from environmental triggers in the air we breathe,” says Dr. Trinh. “The color of mucus can change depending on the kinds of things it comes in contact with, whether it be common allergens (like dust and pollen) or organisms that can cause infections (such as viruses and bacteria).”

More specifically, there are cells called neutrophils within mucus. When these cells detect organisms, they secrete enzymes that react to the living bugs, in turn changing the color of the mucus to green or yellow. It may also thicken the consistency of mucus.

Even allergies can cause all these changes in mucus. Signs that it might be an infection would include a fever, chills, muscle aches and sinus pressure.

“Sinus infections are often the result of viral illnesses and improve on their own with rest and staying hydrated,” says Dr. Trinh. “Even simple remedies like saline nasal irrigation kits can help control symptoms of congestion and clear mucus.”

If you have any of the above symptoms and they do not improve after several days, see a doctor. And if you have problems with recurring sinus infections, your doctor can recommend further therapies.


Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.


Have you ever taken your child to a birthday party and braced at the cake-cutting, knowing that soon 20 kids would be running around the room screaming? Sweets may not be causing your child to act in overdrive.

The belief that sugar affects behavior first became popular in the early 1970s when allergist Dr. Benjamin Feingold published his diet advocating the treatment of hyperactivity in children by eliminating food with additives, artificial flavoring and salicylates. Sugar was not specifically mentioned, but since it’s often an additive, the two became linked.

“However, over the years, numerous studies have concluded that there is no substantial evidence to support the claim that sugar causes hyperactivity,” says pediatrician Alice Diego-Malit, MD.

Dr. Diego-Malit cited a study published in the 1990s in the Journal of the American Medical Association which examined the affects of placebos and sugar on children’s behavior. The conclusion was that there was no link.

“In the studies, researchers suggested that parental expectations of sugar affect perceptions of their child’s behavior,” says Dr. Diego-Malit. “Researchers postulate that the over-activity children show in parties may be from the excitement of the event rather than the actual sugar consumed during the special occasions.”

However, don’t discount the true negative effects of processed and artificial sugar. While sugar occurs naturally in foods such as milk and fruits and is necessary to provide calories that our bodies rely on for metabolic processes, filling up on sweetened foods such as juice and cookies doesn’t leave space for healthy foods.

And calories from sugar add up quickly, leading to weight gain and in the long-term possibly causing diabeties and cavities. “Encouraging families to eat foods high in natural sugars like fruits, vegetables and dairy products guarantees a sweet life filled with long-term good health,” says Dr. Diego-Malit.

Categories: Health Tip

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