Debunking Folks’ Medical Advice: Part 3

We Filipinos have traditional medical beliefs that our elders have passed on the us, and we in turn passed on to our children. However, not all of these folks’ advices are scientifically or medically sound.

This is part 3 of the series that I have written here. It is not my intention to disrespect our elders but just trying to bring light to the truth, and nothing but the truth.

1. Huwag bunutin ang puting buhok, dahil lalo itong dadami. Sa isang buhok na binunot, sampung puting buhok ang magiging kapalit nito.

Don’t pull out white hair, as they will multiply more. One white hair pulled will cause 10 more to grow.

There is no medical truth to this. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to our hair. Hydrogen peroxide which our body naturally produces interferes with melanin. Our body also produces catalase, an enzyme that breaks down the hydrogen peroxide. As we age, catalase production tails off, and thus there’s more unbroken hydrogen peroxide that makes our hair gray or white. It was also found that gray-haired people have less hair-repair enzymes in their follicles.

The observation that the more you pull out the white hair the more white hair appears, is simply because of the natural progression of hair turning gray or white. It has nothing to do whether you pull it or not.

There’s one thing for sure though: the more hair you pull, the less hair you’ll  have. So it is better to dye them black, when there are too many white hair to pull. Or better yet, wear your gray or white hair with pride, as a badge of honor and wisdom.

2. Huwag hawakan ang palaka, at baka ka magkakulugo.

Don’t touch a frog, as it can cause warts.

Warts are caused by a viral infection. More specifically, the human papilloma virus. The virus enters through a break in the skin and causes cells to grow quickly on the external layer of our skin, causing the warty bump.

Frogs and toads sometimes have “wart-like” bumps in their skin, but these will not cause warts if you touch them. Though the bumps behind the head of some toads contains poison and can irritate the skin if you touch them. So it may be better not to touch them anyway. Don’t kiss the frog as well. It will not turn into a prince.


3. Magsuot ng itim na damit kung may mga pantal, upang mawala ang pamamantal.

Wear black or dark-colored dress to get rid of skin rash or welts.

Skin rashes and welts are mostly caused by an allergic reaction. We can get allergic reaction from almost anything – foods, medications, soaps, lotions, perfumes, and other chemicals you can think of that we get in contact with. The rashes and welts are caused by the release of histamines and other bioenzymes our body produces that causes inflammation. Some of these allergic reactions can be serious and life threatening, while some causes minor discomfort only.

Wearing black or dark-colored clothes will not stop the allergic reaction, nor will it hasten the disappearance of the rashes and welts. If the allergic reaction is severe, that is besides the skin welts, you also experience swelling of the face and difficulty breathing, you better seek medical help quickly. Or your family will be wearing black for funeral.

4. Huwag maglakad ng naka-paa, at baka magkaroon ka ng varicose veins.

Don’t walk barefoot, as you may develop varicose veins.

Varicose veins are abnormally thick, twisting, and enlarged veins. They can form anywhere but are particularly frequent in the legs. Veins have valves within them that prevent back flow of the circulation. If these vein valves are defective or damaged, these will lead to varicose veins.

Experts believe that varicose veins can be an inherited condition, though there are a lot of factors that can aggravate them. Pregnancy, obesity, prolonged standing, constant straining (like in constipation) or anything that causes increased pressure that prevents venous blood return from the legs. Prior surgery or trauma, and aging are also factors. Walking barefoot though is not one of them.

In fact, recent studies have shown benefits of walking barefoot, like better biomechanics and muscle development. Though I’m not recommending you ditch your shoes yet, especially if you’re walking in city streets.


5. Huwag maglakad ng naka-paa, at baka magkaroon ka ng bulate sa tiyan.

Don’t walk barefoot, as you may get intestinal worms.

This advice has truth to it. Though there are different ways that parasitic worms get into our body, there is one type – the hookworms – that can enter through our feet. People usually become infected with hookworms by walking barefoot on soil that contains the larval form of the worm, although infection may also occur from any other soil-skin contact or by ingestion.

Hookworm larvae move from the skin to the lungs and then the trachea, where they are swallowed. Larvae mature into adult worms in the intestines, where they attach to the intestinal walls and lay eggs. The eggs exit the host body with feces and once in the soil hatch into larvae, continuing the life cycle. I am sorry if I gross you out.

I know I have said that there are benefits of walking barefoot, but there are also disadvantages. This is one of them. So the next time your mother orders you to wear your slippers when you play in the streets (especially in Manila), you should listen.


(*photos from the net)

Related Posts:

Debunking Folks’ Medical Advice

Debunking Folks’ Medical Advice: Part 2

Debunking Folks’ Medical Advice: Part 2

Here are more old folks’ medical advices that I remember receiving personally or hearing from somewhere else, while I was growing up. Let us examine if there’s medical validity behind these folks’ counsels.

1. Huwag mong hayaang matuyo ang pawis sa iyong likod, ito ay sanhi ng pulmonya.

Do not let your sweat-soaked clothes dry up on your back, you will have pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs usually caused by an infection. This is most commonly due to virus or bacteria, that gained access to your lungs through inhalation or aspiration. Frequently, a healthy immune system is able to fight off these organisms that invade the lungs. However, it can sometimes be overwhelmed, and the result is pneumonia.

We catch viral pneumonia when we are exposed to somebody who is infected with it, when they cough or sneeze and spread the germs in the air and in things around them. Most of the bacteria though that causes pneumonia, already inhabit our mouth and throat, and are just waiting for you to let them in into your lower respiratory tract. Our body’s defense mechanisms (like cough reflex) and immune system keep them in check.

Getting wet in the rain or letting your sweat soaked clothings dry up on you, does not cause pneumonia. Some experts have examine if these can lower our immune defenses, but current medical studies indicate that they do not.

So don’t worry about having your sweat-soaked shirt dry up on you. Just be considerate of other people who will have to put up with your stinky smell, so might as well change your smelly shirt. And go ahead and play in the rain, just watch out for the lightning!

2. Huwag mong pahamugan ang bunbunan ng bata, baka ito sipunin.

Do not let the head of the child be exposed to dew, he will catch cold.

Colds are caused by respiratory viruses. Again, we catch them if we are exposed to people who likes to share their viruses, even if you don’t want them. If you don’t breath at all, you may prevent inhaling the virus, but is not recommend for obvious reason.  And if you caught the virus, please don’t share it further by taking proper precautions, like covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and by frequently washing your hands.

Being exposed to the night dew is not a direct cause of colds. However if your putting a hat or covering the head of a child because of frigid temperature, then that is something else, and that is very appropriate.

3. Huwag kang matutulog ng basa ang buhok, at baka ikaw ay mabulag.

Do not sleep with your hair wet, you will go blind.

There is no medical truth to this. I believe this advice is perpetuated by older folks who don’t want to get the pillow wet, which can get wet anyway with drool. The only thing you will get by sleeping with wet hair, aside from wet pillows, is waking up with bed head hair. However, a bed-head-hair-look is considered fashionable and stylistic nowadays.

If you wet your hair with kerosene, then that is a different story.

4. Huwag mong paglaruin ang mga bata sa init ng araw, at baka sila magkakuto.

Do not let you kids play under the heat of the sun, they will have head lice.

Head lice is an infestation caused by a parasitic insect, Pediculosis capitis. These parasites feed on blood like mini-Dracula. Head lice is spread from direct head to head or close contact from an infested person. Sharing a comb, headgear, beddings or clothings are the most common ways of spreading this.

The sunlight does not cause lice. In the contrary it may even help get rid of it. Hanging bedsheets in the sunlight might help kill lice and its eggs. But exposure to sunlight alone will not kill these parasites in the human scalp, unless you get very high UV light and reach very high temperature, like when you migrate to Mercury.

There have been many folk remedies suggested like vinegar, mayonnaise, olive oil, and butter (sounds like making a salad in your head!). The scientific evidence on these home remedies are not clear. I would recommend you ask your doctor for the proper treament of head lice.

So let your kids play in the sun. Just remember exposure to too much sun causes sunburn and skin damage, and in addition, increases the risk of developing skin cancer later on in life.

5. Huwag umupo sa nakabilad o maiinit na upuan, dahil ito ay sanhi ng balisawsaw.

Do not sit on seats that are hot or exposed to the sun, it can cause frequency or dysuria.

Frequency and dysuria are often times symptoms of urinary tract infection (UTI). And  UTI are caused by bacteria that have gained access into the urethra and bladder or even up to the kidneys. Women are more prone to UTI than men due to their shorter urethra. Sitting on a hot seat has nothing to do with this.

The only people that I would like to be in the hot seats  are the corrupt politicians, and may they suffer balisawsaw.

6. Kumain ng  butiki para mawala ang iyong asthma.

Eating house lizard is a cure for asthma.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. The exact cause of asthma is not fully understood, though experts believe it is a combination of many factors, like genetic predisposition and certain environmental exposures.

There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled with treatment. Treatment includes medicines like inhalers as well as preventive measures by avoiding the known triggers of asthma, like smoking, dust (house dust mite, which is in the dust is a well known trigger) and extreme temperatures.

A  grilled house lizard is not a cure for asthma at all. It may be a cure for a hungry stomach.

7. Uminom ng tubig dagat kung ikaw ay may sipon o ubo, upang ito ay gumaling.

Drink sea water when you have cough and cold, for this will cure it.

I have heard that parents especially in the provinces, tell their children when they have a cough or cold, to go and swim in the ocean, and take a gulp of seawater while they are in it. This may be that the ocean in the provinces are clean and clear. I don’t think any parent will advice their kid to take a gulp of water from Manila Bay (might as well drink from the toilet bowl!).

This is an interesting advice. Saline water (not necessary ocean water), has a lot of medicinal uses. It is used to irrigate the nose and the sinuses in patients with nasal congestion and obstruction. Hypertonic saline is also given as a nebulization (inhalation of mist) in patients with chronic lung disease, especially in Cystic Fibrosis, to break and loosen their phlegm. Gurgling warm salt water can also soothe a sore throat.

In spite of medicinal usage of saline water, there is no medical facts behind the advice of drinking ocean water to treat cough and colds. As a lung specialist, I am not recommending drinking seawater. And certainly I am not recommending inhaling it, that is called drowning!