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6 Pieces of Folksy Wisdom That Are Actually True

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The holidays are here again. That means family, and family means listening to insane, ill-informed debates over every subject imaginable. But just because your relatives are old and probably a little crazy doesn’t mean everything they say is nonsense. When it comes to some of that old down-home folksy wisdom, for example, they’re actually right.

1. You Can Predict the Weather From Joint Pain

Everyone’s related to someone who swears they can tell when it’s going to rain (or snow, or hail, or whatever) based on the pain in their joints. “My knee is acting up!" your relative likely wails. "A storm must be coming.” And it’s not just their imagination: Joint pain really can be a good indicator of weather activity. Shifts in barometric pressure can cause painful swelling in joints and ligaments, especially for those who have arthritis or have suffered previous injury.

Depending on a person's sensitivity, even small shifts in barometric pressure can be noticeable; some sufferers claim that they can detect storms days in advance. Of course, for those without arthritis or old injuries, there’s always a good old standard barometer.

2. Chicken Soup Can Help a Cold


While any kind of soup can be nice on a wintery day, chicken soup is our cultural go-to—and according to television, movies, and our dear old grandmas, that's not all this soup is good for. According to them, chicken soup doesn't just warm you up; it can also cure a cold.

Sometimes those weird, spurious-sounding home remedies get passed down for a good reason, and this is one of them. Chicken soup has properties that inhibit neutrophils, white blood cells that fight off bacteria in inflamed cells. One of their best defenses is the creation of mucus. Unfortunately, they tend to work in a “better safe than sorry” mode, which is what leads to the extraneous amount of snot we get during a cold, making us feel like crap. Chicken soup slows down mucus production and allows some of it to temporarily drain.

Most of the ingredients in chicken soup work together to give the meal its cold relieving powers. It's also worth noting that some varieties of chicken soup (even store bought!) seem to have a better effect than others. So if Mom’s recipe isn’t doing it for you, try a different one.

3. Sleep On It and Decide Tomorrow


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This advice is probably older than the very concept of advice itself. Anytime someone’s on the verge of a big decision, someone will inevitably tell them to sleep on it before making up their mind.

This sounds like the kind of tip that would only be handy if you make all major decisions while severely sleep deprived, but even if you can knock out 8 hours a night without a problem, it seems that sleeping before deciding still has a huge benefit.

Because our brains work in ways that aren’t exactly rational even at the best of times, it seems that unconscious thought is far better at coming up with answers to complex decisions than conscious thought. Even in studies where subjects were given a decision and then distracted for an hour (as opposed to picking something right away), the difference in the quality of decision-making was huge.

Since sleep is a built-in way to not have to think about ... well, anything, really, for about 8 hours, it’s the simplest way to turn off the conscious part of our brain and outsource the decision-making to the unconscious.

4. Animals Know When Danger is Coming

Before and after any given major unforeseen disaster, you’ll hear anecdotes from people who claim that their pets or some other wildlife somehow sensed the disaster and warned them in time. It constantly pops up in disaster movies, where the family dog will sense some impending cataclysm while its owners remain blissfully unaware.

Cujo might not have a Spidey-sense for catastrophe, but he does know something. Reports following the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami showed that the impact on local fauna was minimal. Animals sought higher ground, found shelter, or, in the case of house pets, refused to go outside at all during the hours leading up to the tsunami. As a result, few animals died during the tsunami compared to humans.

But it's not magic. Animals just tend to have sharper senses than we do, which allows them to, for example, hear the infrasound (extremely low-frequency noise) that earthquakes make. Other animals may literally have sixth (or seventh or eighth) senses that allow them to detect things we don't: birds can sense electromagnetic fields, and snakes are extremely sensitive to vibration. Even animals with none of those things can simply take notice of the others and follow along.

5. Don’t Swallow Your Gum


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When you were a kid, there’s a 99.99 percent chance that you were told by someone, at some point, not to swallow your chewing gum. The reason why can vary based on geographic area. According to some people, it’s because gum gets stuck in your intestinal tract and takes 7 years to digest. Others say it’s because you’ll never digest swallowed gum. Further tellings get right down to it and say that you’ll just plain die.

And, if you know anything about old wives’ tales and basic human biology at all, you’ll know none of those things are true. Well, mostly, anyway. Because, you see, there is an excellent reason not to swallow your gum, and it sort of connects to all of those.

Swallowing enough gum can lead to what’s called a bezoar, which is a really gross lump of indigestible material that gets trapped in the digestive system, causing intestinal blockages. And yes, it can kill you.

They’re most famous for being made out of hair in sufferers of Rapunzel Syndrome—a disorder that causes people to eat their hair—but they can technically be made out of anything if there’s enough of it to get wound around itself.

To be fair, most sufferers of gum-based bezoars are little kids, who are usually too small to know any better. Still, in theory, if you’re an extremely frequent gum chewer who swallows it to rebel against authority, you might want reconsider your position.

6. Eating Bananas Will Make You Have a Baby Boy


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There’s so much folk wisdom about pregnancies that Snopes.com has a whole section dedicated to it. With so much bunk floating around about reproduction, you can pretty much file anything you hear about it into your internal garbage bin.

For example, eating bananas while pregnant will lead you to give birth to a baby boy. It sounds ridiculous, but at least one study suggests that it's true.

There's a catch, though: You can’t just feast on bananas for nine months and expect to have a 100 percent chance at having a boy. Women need to eat a whole lot of high-energy foods (like bananas) right after conceiving. Also, it’s only about a 56 percent probability, which doesn’t sound a whole lot better than pure chance—but it’s actually quite a large difference.

The exact cause is still a mystery. All we currently know is that high levels of glucose tend to be beneficial to boys and detrimental to girls in the embryonic stage. In fact, with modern low-calorie diets being popular, there has been a very slight uptick in female births in developed countries. What’s more, this seems to apply to any kind of mammals: Richer, higher-calorie foods also lead to a higher birth rate for males in wildlife as well.

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Knock-Off Versions of Nerf Ammo Can Cause Serious Eye Injuries
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Nerf toy guns and their foam projectiles, as marketed and manufactured by Hasbro, are virtually harmless when used as instructed. But, as reported by CNN, a recent paper in the UK medical journal BMJ Case Reports is providing a reality check when it comes to using the mock weapons and off-brand ammo improperly.

Three unrelated patients were treated at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London with ocular injuries that were sustained as a result of being "shot" with Nerf guns. Two adults had bleeding and inflammation in the eye; one 11-year-old had bleeding, inflammation, and damage to the outer retinal layer. All three suffered what the paper described as "significant ocular trauma." Attending doctors treated their swelling, and all symptoms resolved within a few weeks.

So what happened? In the case of one patient, a Nerf play session went awry as a result of using non-licensed ammo that isn't subject to Hasbro's quality control measures and may be made of harder materials as a result. On their Nerf landing page, Hasbro cautions users to "never modify any Nerf blasters or other Nerf products. Use only the darts, water, rounds, and discs designed for specific Nerf blasters."

Pediatric ophthalmologists interviewed by CNN recommend that protective eyewear be used whenever anyone is playing with Nerf weapons. It's also advisable never to aim for the face when shooting and to avoid attempting to modify the weapons to shoot faster or farther.

[h/t CNN]

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Here's What You Need to Know Before Getting Inked or Pierced, According to Doctors
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Getting inked or pierced is a rite of passage for many teens and young adults. But before getting that belly ring or butterfly on your back, experts want you to be aware of the risks, which are reviewed in a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to NPR, it's the first set of recommendations the professional association has ever released on the practices.

Forthcoming in the October 2017 issue of Pediatrics and available online, the report provides a general assessment of the types and methods used to perform body modifications, along with potential health and social consequences. Here are a few main takeaways:

—It's unclear how often tattoos cause health complications, but they're generally believed to be rare, with the greatest risk being infection. One recent study found that nanoparticles in ink can travel to and linger in lymph nodes for an extended period. That said, you should check with your doctor to make sure all of your immunizations are up to date before getting either a tattoo or piercing, and that you're not taking any immunity-compromising medicines.

—Before shelling out your hard-earned cash on a tattoo, make sure it's something you'll likely still appreciate in five to 10 years, as it costs anywhere from $49 to $300 per square inch to remove a tattoo with lasers. (This might provide all the more incentive to opt for a small design instead of a full sleeve.)

—About half of people 18 to 29 years of age have some kind of piercing or tattoo, according to Dr. Cora Breuner, who is chair of the AAP committee on adolescence. Many individuals don't regret getting one, with some reporting that tattoos make them feel sexier. But while millennials appear to be cool with metal and ink, hiring managers might not be too pleased: In a 2014 survey of 2700 people, 76 percent said they thought a tattoo or piercing had hindered their chances of getting hired, and nearly 40 percent thought tattooed employees reflected poorly on their employers.

—Not all tattoo parlors are created equal, as each state has different regulations. Keep a close eye on whether your artist uses fresh disposable gloves, fresh needles, and unused ink poured into a new container. This helps prevent infection.

—The advice is similar for getting pierced: Make sure the piercer puts on new, disposable gloves and uses new equipment from a sterile container. Tongue piercings can cause tooth chippings, so be careful of that—and remove any piercings before you play contacts sports.

The full report is available online.

[h/t NPR]

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