Q&A Archive

Menstuff® has compiled questions and answers on unusual topics concerning men. This section is an archive of a weekly column featured daily on our homepage.

Babies Are More Sensitive to Cold, So Bundle Them Up
Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
Black Coffee Sobers You Up
Don't Stand Under a Tree in a Thunderstorm
If You're Not Quiet, You'' Wake the Baby
Large Amounts of Vitamin C Prevents Cold
Muscle Weights More than Fat
No Pain, No Gain
Shaving Makes Your Hair or Beard Grow Back ThickerTaking
Shaving Against the Grain Makes Your Hair Tougher
Taking Large Amounts of Vitamin C Prevents Cold
Tonsils and Adenoids Cause Infections and Should be Removed
We are More Romantic and Conceive more Babies During the Full Moon
Whether the Baby's Bellybutton is an "Inny" or an "Outy" Depends on how the Doctor Cut the Umbilical Cord
You Can Sweat Out a Cold
You Can't Get Too Much Sleep

We are More Romantic and Conceive more Babies During the Full Moon


Not True. "By the light of the silvery moon," etc, says it all, according to Ms. Chippendale. Full moons are romantic because they're pretty and because of the light they deliver. Cuddling in the moonlight is more fun in the same way that it's nicer to cuddle in a rose garden than on a city street, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the gravitational pull of the moon. Ms. Chippendale and Mr. Moore also agree on the "statistics" regarding conception during a full moon. They cite something that is the bane of all research: "A search for coincidences will always reveal them." In other words, it's easy to find proof that there's an increase in conception during a full moon, if you look for it. However, further research will reveal other jumps in conception rate that have no relation at all to a full moon. Both instances prove nothing. However, a Ring around the Moon does mean rain. The soft and often beautiful "haloes" we sometimes see around the moon can indeed be precursors of rain. Again, we refer to the writing of Patrick Moore, who informs us that these rings are caused by the moonlight shining through ice crystals hovering at around 20,0000 feet. These ice crystals are part of a cloud called cirrostratus, known to mariners as "mares' tails." They're a high, wispy cloud that is very often a sign of approaching bad weather. The moon can also look "watery" because it is seen through a lower and denser cloud, and this, too, can mean a soggy day is coming. Source: Old Wives' Tales

Babies Are More Sensitive to Cold, So Bundle Them Up


Note True. The way some parents encase their children in protective bundling, you'd think they were taking a walk on the moon. These little "astronauts" are so wrapped in layers against the cold air that they're barely able to wiggle their fingers. Why all this overprotectiveness?  Well, many parents truly believe that babies, especially in the first few months, are less able to cope with cold weather.

Not true, as the American Academy of Pediatrics. A 32 degree Fahrenheit temperature. or below, is no colder to a baby than to an adult. So there's no reason to dress your baby any more heavily than you dress yourself. They do cite one area of exception - the baby's head. Because it's proportionally larger in terms of body area than an adult's, a baby can lose correspondingly more heat through his head. So, it's OK to go heavy on the hats.

The same rule about dressing applies indoors, as well. If you don't need to wear a heavy sweater, neither does your baby. Just remember, an over bundled baby won't complain, he'll simply perspire and break out in prickly heat. So common is this scenario that pediatricians say they treat more cases of prickly heat in the winter than in the summer.

If your baby is getting cold, he'll let you know by crying and turning a bluish mottled color. And don't try to go by the feel of the child's hands or feet. They're generally a little colder than the rest of his body. Check his little tummy for a better indication of the baby's temperature.

Source: Old Wives' Tales

You Can Sweat Out a Cold


What about the notion that heavy sweating and opening up your pores to get rid of all kinds of toxins will actually "sweat out a cold"? The answer, once again from the esteemed doctors of the editorial board of the University of California's Berkeley Wellness Letter, is conveyed in just one word - "Nonsense!" Source: Old Wives' Tales

Shaving Makes Your Hair or Beard Grow Back Thicker


Not True. I wonder if the reason European women tend to avoid shaving their leg and underarm hair is the fear that if they do, the hair will grow in thicker. Teenage boys have this fear.

They're not worried about their legs, of course, unless they swim competitively, and they have an almost suicidal urge to get on with the business of scraping their faces - which has become a modern rite of manhood. But they do worry about shaving too high up on their cheeks, thinking, as we do, that the facial hair is going to start sprouting where it's going to be...oooooh, gross!

Well, we can all relax, and shave to our hearts' content.

In The Skin Book, dermatologists Arnold Klein and James Steinberg give the reassuring news that there's no truth whatsoever in this commonly held belief. Shaving an area will not make the hair grow back thicker. This really is just an old wives' tale.

The good doctors also have something to say about the OWT of shaving - next week. Source: Old Wives' Tales

Black Coffee Sobers You Up


Note true. This one of the most common notions associated with drinking - if you can drink enough strong, black coffee, you'll sober up. It's a common scene in the movies. It's often served at parties before people drive home and offered free on New Year's Eve at highway stops. While it's true that caffeine may help relieve a hangover and may help a person stake awake, it does not lower the alcohol content in the body. So, what you basically have is a wide awake drunk, still very dangerous behind the wheel. Better to drink a lot of fruit juice and wait until the sugar burns up enough alcohol. Source: Old Wives' Tales

Taking Large Amounts of Vitamin C Prevents Colds


Maybe. The controversy on this one has been raging since the 1970s when Nobel scientist Dr. Linus Pauling published research on vitamin C. Various studies have either refuted or supported its usefulness, and entire books have been written on the subject. The latest medical thinking seems to be that it may work for some people to reduce the severity of symptoms.

For me, the bottom line is that, like chicken soup, it doesn't hurt and may actually help. From personal experience, my wife and I have found that taking 1,500 mg of vitamin C every few hours, when we first feel symptoms coming on, often does stop a cold in its tracks. But not always!

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 250 mg, about the equivalent of seven servings of fruits and vegetables. Since smoking also reduces a person's level of vitamin C, the advice is either to stop smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, or take a daily supplement.

Source: Old Wives' Tales

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day


True. My generation certainly grew up hearing, and believing, in this statement. But it doesn't stop most of us from rushing out in the morning fortified with only a cup of coffee and toast. However, in an estimated 40 percent of American families, there isn't even an adult present in the kitchen to urge children to finish their breakfast. So more children skip breakfast than any other meal. This is one adage that may end with this generation, unfortunately.

While no on has proven conclusively that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it's at least of equal importance with lunch and dinner. Nutritionists warn that your body burns the energy from food within four hours. Although you may use up less energy while you sleep, it's a long time until morning and you still make up with the need for lots more fuel.

Some studies have shown that children who skip breakfast don't do as well in school. Besides lack of energy, we all know how tough it is to concentrate when your stomach's rumbling and you're counting hours until lunch.

In addition, a recent Canadian study suggests that skipping breakfast may increase the chance of a heart attack. It's been known that the incidence of heart attacks is highest in the first few hours after waking. According to the study, the blood protein beta thromboglobulin, which increases as blood cells prime themselves for clotting, averaged nearly three times higher in people who did not eat breakfast.

So, there's no doubt the importance of breakfast is more than just an old wives' tale. The problem comes in following the advice. How do you find time to make a proper meal and then make time to eat it?

The American Health Association recommends that breakfast should supply at least one-fourth of the daily food needs. And it's important to include a variety of foods to supply energy until the next meal. Carbohydrates (bread, for example) can be digested in as little as 30 minutes; however, protein (eggs, milk, meat, cheese) lasts longer, and can help you make it to lunchtime.

Many nutritionists say one answer is in expanding the common idea of what constitutes breakfast. Foods like pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hearty soups and fruit milk shakes are all perfectly acceptable - and more likely to be eater by children. As for the question of preparation time, or lack of it, why not try recycling leftovers from the previous dinner. If, like me, you wake up in the morning barely capable of pouring cereal into a bowl, you can always spend a few minutes at night making a breakfast that only needs a quick nuking in the microwave, or can be eaten cold. Ever try leftover pizza right from the fridge? Not bad!

Source: Old Wives' Tales

Muscle Weights More than Fat


True. Among the explanations heard when the scale doesn't budge or even creeps upward, this theory is the "heavyweight" champ, just edging out "heavy bones." People say they exercise and exercise but because the muscle they're building weighs more than the fat they're replacing, their weight remains constant. Are they right? Perhaps this isn't the whole story.

Partially because he wanted to know, and partially to get me to let up on him at dinnertime, my husband asked Diane, a very knowledgeable trainer at his gym, what she knew about the subject.

"It's like the old question of a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers," she answered. "Muscle is muscle and fat is fat and a pound of each is a pound of each." But...

Here's the difference. Muscle is more dense and will weigh more than an equal amount of fat, just like a brick will weigh more than a stack of feathers the same size as the brick. But how does that all relate to weight loss?  Will a person who is exercising and building muscle actually gain weight? The answer is in the calorie intake.

Let's compare two people taking in 2,000 calories per day, one working out, the other not. The person working out will burn most of the calories while building muscle, so he or she will lose weight. The calories taken in, but not used, by the sedentary individual will build fat.

However, if the person who is working out increases his or her intake of calories, there will be less and less weight loss as he or she bulks up. This person will be building muscle but not burning enough calories, and those extra calories turn to fat. This is a general rule and, naturally, the two different bodies react to the rule at different rates. Source: Old Wives' Tales

You Can't Get Too Much Sleep


Not True. There's no benefit in getting more sleep than you need, and that varies among individuals. Yet people can get into the habit of sleeping a specific number of hours, or they stay in bed because "it's good for you." Of course, there's no harm in that, but if you'd like a little more time during the day, try cutting back an hour of sleep for a few nights and see how you feel. If it's any help, the Better Sleep Council reveals that the average person sleeps seven and a half hours each night. And the average number of hours a person spends asleep during a lifetime is a whopping 220,000! (That's over 25 years of sleeping 24/7. Oversleeping could also be a warning signal of oncoming depression. - Editor)  Source: Old Wives' Tales

If You're Not Quiet, You'' Wake the Baby


Not True. This frequent warning if often given to older children in the family and doesn't do much in the way of encouraging a positive attitude toward a new sibling. Is it really necessary?  Doctors say it all depends on the baby. Even newborns are individual: Some are easily awakened by the slightest noise, while others can sleep through a Super Bowl game. I had one of each.

For most young infants, a normal level of conversation is just fine, so there's no need to whisper. A sudden noise or loud shout may cause the baby to react a little, but not fully wake up. Many desperate parents have also found that the monotonous sounds of vacuums, fans, lawn mowers, drills, engines, etc., actually help put a cranky baby to sleep. The only problem is that the baby is likely to wake up as soon as the noise stops. I soon learned, after wearing the carpets out, it works just as well to tape the sound of a vacuum cleaner and play it as long as needed! (We always had music on so our daughter could sleep through a party from early on and not wake up.- Editor) Source: Old Wives' Tales

No Pain, No Gain


They shout it at you from the TV screens, and in the gyms, and if you're anything like me, you want to shout back, "Pain? No way!"

More of an Old Trainers' Tale, it was accepted as truth for several years. It's also why moire than half the population of the US still doesn't exercise. We feel guilty, of course, but who, in their right mind, likes pain?

Drs. Peter and Lorna Francis (both Ph.D.s) have written a book called If It Hurts, Don't Do It. Exactly my sentiments. But, if we "don't do it" when it hurts, will we derive any benefit? Is there gain without pain?

The answer is not a simple, straightforward yes or no. It really depends on what exercises you're doing and why you're doing them.

You should exercise for health. And you should exercise for fitness. You can exercise for strength and performance, too. Those are three different reasons demanding three different approaches, and two different answers to the no pain, no gain debate.

When exercising for health, a moderate program is in order. These are exercises that help you lose and maintain weight; reduce the risk of heart problems through aerobic activities such as walking and swimming; maintain flexibility, and induce relaxation. When engaging in a program like this, there's no reason at all to do anything that causes discomfort, shortness of breath or pain. Just performing these activities at a comfortable level will bring about improvements.

Exercising for fitness requires more effort, more cardiovascular activity, more dedication, and should include stretching, aerobic training, and a program for building strength. Here again, there's no need to endure pain to achieve gain. It's OK to try to push past a little fatigue, but when your tired arms and legs start shaking uncontrollably, it's time to ease up. All of the above activities can be extremely beneficial without putting undue strain on your joints, ligaments and cardiovascular system.

Most important, by exercising within these painless guidelines, there will be gain. Your stamina and ability will steadily improve if you stick to your program. Even the strength training you incorporate into the program does not require pain to achieve results.

For those people who train for performance, the answer is different. These are people who are interested in training for a specific sport or for building a very muscular body. Experts seem to agree that when it come to developing specific muscles, there is a benefit from the fatigue one feels as one reaches and pushes capacity. However, the pain or "burn" must still be mild and confined to the muscle itself. Great care must be taken not to tax the ligaments, the skeletal structure or the cardiovascular system that supports those muscles. Research shows the injury rates are higher among the very fit. Ignoring pain can almost guarantee an injury.

One of the most awful moments of my televisions sports viewing career occurred when I saw a weight lifter's leg snap under the weight he had hoisted. His muscular strength had achieved a capacity his skeleton could not support.

So, for serious trainers, mild fatigue pain in the muscle itself can deliver gain, but for the rest of us, it's not necessary to exercise to the point of pain to receive the benefit. Everyone who exercises, at any level, should keep in mind that pain is nature's way of warning us that we're abusing our bodies. Source: Old Wives' Tales

Whether the Baby's Bellybutton is an "Inny" or an "Outy" Depends on how the Doctor Cut the Umbilical Cord


Not true. "Innies" and "outlies"...doesn't that bring back memories from childhood? Of course, no one ever thought or even cared about the cause - there were just something fascinating to look at and compare. In truth, the obstetrician can't be blamed either way. The position of the cut makes no difference: What does determine the shape is the same thing that shapes the baby's fingers...heredity.

My husband's grandfather had a wonderful explanation of bellybuttons, in general. He was a baker and drew his grandchildren's attention to the indentation at the center of a rye bread. "This was made," he said, "by the baker when he poked the bread to see if it was done. That's what God does, too, to tell if each new baby is ready to be born. Whether you are an inny or an outy depended on your state of doneness when you got poked."  I guess you can call this one an "old baker's tale." Source: Old Wives' Tales

Tonsils and Adenoids Cause Infections and Should be Removed


Not true. Although I was only eight, I still clearly remember going into the hospital to have my tonsils and adenoids removed: the sweet sick smell of ether, counting backward until I went under, then waking up with a sharp pain in my throat. The up side was that I was allowed to eat all the ice cream I wanted. Sound familiar?

This rather unpleasant experience was shared by most children as a result of the common belief, an "old doctors' tale" that tonsils were the source of infections, especially if they were enlarged. Since children are likely to get frequent sore throats, it's work sharing the latest medical thinking on the subject.

First of all, instead of causing infections, tonsils are there to help prevent infections from spreading. The purpose of these two masses of tissue at the back on the throat is to "filter" germs from the throat. When bacteria or viruses occasionally infect this filter, the result is tonsillitis. Tonsils and adenoids also contain special cells that produce antibodies to help fight the bacteria and viruses.

As for their size, it's normal for tonsils to be enlarged in early childhood. They begin to decrease around the age of six. Just because they're big, doesn't mean they have to come out. Adenoids serve much the same function as tonsils, but are less likely to become infected. However, they were often removed at the same time on the theory that "as long as we're operating, why not?"

When is surgery recommended? The American Academy of Pediatrics gives only these five reasons:

Source: Old Wives' Tales

Don't Stand Under a Tree in a Thunderstorm


True. In case you're thinking, "Of course, that's not an old wives' tale, it's absolutely true" - you're absolutely right! But judging from the speed with which most people run for shelter under the nearest tree as soon as the skies open, they either haven't heard this warning or think of it as just another old wives' tale. Unfortunately, thousands of people are injured each year by lighting.

The National Safety Council clearly explains: "Trees are tall and therefore attract lightning. Since wood is not a good conductor, an electrical current may jump from a tree to a nearby person before touching the ground.:" They recommend that if you're in a wooded area when a storm hits, stay at least six feet from any tree.

It can also be dangerous to be on hilltops and in open areas such as golf courses, soccer fields and baseball diamonds - especially if you're holding metal objects like golf clubs, baseball bats, fishing poles, tennis rackets, or riding a bike, moped, motorcycle, farm vehicle, etc. These all make wonderful lighting rods, so get rid of them, or get off them immediately.

If you are caught in the open, the Council's advice is to "crouch low to the ground, with your hands on your knees." Don't lie flat on the ground because that increases your chances of being affected by electrical currents when the ground is truck. Sure, you'll be wet and uncomfortable, but alive.

The best idea is to get in the habit of keeping a "weather eye" when the skies are threatening. In almost all cases, you can see the towering thunderstorm cloud formation approaching and occasional lightning flashes at least half an hour in advance, plenty of time to take shelter.

Even when darkness makes it hard to see the sky, keep in mind that light travels much faster than sound. It's possible to estimate the distance in miles - just count the number of seconds between the lightning flash and the accompanying thunderclap, then divide by five. If the interval between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder becomes noticeably smaller, the storm is moving toward you.

The Safety Council also points out: "The most dangerous time to be caught outdoors is just before the storm, when dark clouds appear and your hair feels as if it's standing on end. You're being set up as a perfect lightning rod."

Talk about stupidity! I vividly remember one evening sailboat race. For over half an hour, countless eyes in over 30 boats observed dark clouds, thunder and sharply defined lightning bolts come closer and closer. But everyone hung in, with spinnakers flying, trying to reach the finish line before the storm.

For once, it was lucky we weren't in the lead - that boat took a direct hit. Fortunately, most larger sailboats are grounded to handle lightning, and the only real damage was to all the electrical instruments.

Of course, water is normally a great conductor of electricity and the last place to be in a storm. That's why it's "out of the pool" at the first clap of thunder. Where is it safe? The Council says a metal top car or bus, with closed windows, because the vehicle's frame will deflect the charge to the ground. The best place to take shelter is a large, lightning-protected or steel-framed building. However, since an estimated 18,000 homes in the U.S. are struck by lightning each year, here's some advice if you're at home during a storm:

Unplug the TV set because the charge can travel down the antenna and cause the set to explode.

Don't use the telephone or electrical appliances because lightning can also travel through phone lines and electrical wiring, giving a serious shock to anyone touching the receiver or appliance.

Now I realize this may be more than you ever wanted to know about lightning, but you never know when it may come in handy. At least you'll be able to recognize any real old wives' tales about electrical storms. Source: Old Wives' Tales

Shaving Against the Grain Make Your Hair Tougher


Not True. During my research I discovered why it was that men began to share their faces in the first place. Contrary to the popular wisdom that men share to make themselves more handsome, it seems the practice dates back to the day s of hand-to-hand combat. Men shaved their beards because they didn't want to give the enemy any more to grab onto than he already had.

If we must shave, and I refer to men and women both, it's advisable to shave "with the grain." Not, however, because it will make the hair or beard tougher, but because it will prevent ingrown hairs.

Hairs don't grow straight out from the skin, but rather at an angle ranging from 30 to 60 degrees. If the hair gets cut "against the grain", or against this angle, it's left with a sharp point that can pierce the skin and grow back into the follicle as it curls back. Because of this problem, it's also not a good idea to share too closely. Interestingly, this is more of a problem for African-American men because of their naturally curly hair which can too easily curl back into the follicle.

Drs Klein and Steinberg offer this simple, surefire strategy for men who have a problem with ingrown facial hairs: "Grow a beard." Then just make sure you don't get into any hand-to-hand combat. Source: Old Wives' Tales

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