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Don’t swallow gum! And other things parents say

Two packs of chewing gum and two sticks of chewing gum.

We wanted to hear about the conventional wisdom, parenting myths, and downright folksy falsehoods adults pass down to kids, and boy did we get a big response! We heard from over 100 of you about everything from “Don’t swallow gum because it will stay in your stomach forever” to “Slouching will crush your organs” to “If you don’t take a shower after swimming in the pool, your hair will turn green.” In this episode (the first of two), with the help of pediatrician Nusheen Ameenuddin of the Mayo Clinic, we put these “parentisms” to the test! Find out if there’s any truth to the idea that TV will turn your brain to mush, you’ll catch a cold if you go out with wet hair, and it’s dangerous to take a shower during a thunderstorm. Oh, and by the way, this is our 200th episode!

Download our learning guides: PDF |Google Slide | Transcript

  • Catching a cold has everything to do with being exposed to a virus and nothing to do with how warmly you are dressed or whether you went outside with wet hair. Of course, there are other reasons to dress warmly in winter, including avoiding hypothermia and frostbite.
  • The chlorine in pools CAN turn your hair green, but it will take repeated exposure and it will still only be a green tint, not a full-on dye job. This is really only an issue for people with light-colored hair. Still, you probably want to shower when you get out of a pool.
  • Don’t cut your fingernails at night! This superstition is popular in Asian countries in particular, including Korea, Japan, the Philippines and India. The explanations for this superstition differ from culture to culture but some are pretty sinister and scary! Scientifically speaking, it’s cool to clip your nails at whatever hour you prefer. Just make sure you get all those little clippings into the trash! 
  • Will swallowed gum stay in your stomach forever? Swallowing gum won’t hurt you. But it’s not a good idea to do it regularly - gum just isn't meant to be digested. Chances are if you swallow gum, it's just going to come out the other end without any problems.
  • Will standing in front of the microwave give you radiation? No! Go ahead and stare at your food as it goes round and round inside. Microwave ovens are carefully regulated to make sure no energy escapes. For example, if you look closely at the window of the microwave, there’s a metal mesh in the glass. That metal helps prevent any microwaves from leaking out.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.

But Why is a project of Vermont Public.

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