Colds and flu

Updated 25 October 2019

Ten weird and wonderful health facts

Public perception and the truth are very often far removed from each other. How many of the following facts did you know?

Brush up on your health knowledge and astound friends and family with the truth behind some of the most common health-related misconceptions. 

1. Colds are not caused by being wet or cold. They are caused by viruses, that have nothing to do with cold temperatures. However, in cold temperatures, people are more inclined to spend time together indoors, thereby more easily transmitting the virus from one person to another.

2. The first artificial limbs were used in 1540. The flush toilet made its appearance in 1778 and contact lenses in 1887.

3. Black coffee does not sober up an intoxicated person. It will only wake him up, but will not change the alcohol levels in the bloodstream. It is better to drink fruit juice and water.

4. The colour of your hair determines how many you have. Blonde people have about 140 000, brunettes about 108 000 and redheads only 90 000. Hair grows more quickly at night and dark hair at a greater speed than blonde hair.

5. Fingernails grow faster than toenails. It is thought that the reason for this might be that sunlight stimulates nail growth, and feet are often covered.

6. Three quarters of all the food we eat on this planet come from eight types of grains : maize, rice, wheat, oats, barley, sorghum, millet and rye.

7. Airplanes have nothing to do with your feet swelling on long journeys. What causes the swelling is the fact that you don’t move around. If you were to sit in one place in your lounge for a similar length of time, your feet would also swell up.

8. The rat and the mouse are far more dangerous to humans than any other animals. They carry at least 20 pathogens that cause different diseases. It is estimated that they have caused the deaths of more people in the last thousand years than all wars in the world put together.

9. It is estimated that approximately 120 million acts of heterosexual sex takes place on earth every day. Of these, about 910 000 end in pregnancy.

10. The myth that spinach is extremely rich in iron, is the result of a printing error. Many decades ago, a table indicating nutritional values of certain food types, put the decimal point, indicating the iron content of spinach, one position too far to the right, thereby increasing its supposed iron content tenfold. Despite the mistake being rectified 70 years ago, public perception still has not followed suit.

Read more

Banana myths
Is man flu a myth?
Breast cancer: myths and facts
5 strange health ‘myths’

(Picture: Girl with spinach from Shutterstock)


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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