During the holidays or on weekends, parents and children often sit together. Reason for joy? Not always for the kids. The more time you spend with adults, the more opportunities arise for their supposed wisdom: sitting crooked causes you to hunch over, reading in the dark makes your eyesight bad, and chewing gum makes your stomach sticky. Is this all to be believed? This fact check from the German Press Agency (dpa) clarifies this.
Claim: Swallowed chewing gum sticks the stomach.
Facts: Sometimes it happens faster than expected: a piece of chewing gum accidentally travels down the esophagus. A rumor says that it could then cause the stomach to stick together.
The German Society for Digestive and Metabolic Disorders (DGVS) gives the all-clear: "The chewing gum does not stick to the teeth in the mouth and does not stick to the esophagus or stomach walls when swallowed. Nor does it subsequently stick to the small or large intestine," says the doctor and DGVS - Spokeswoman Birgit Terjung of the dpa.
But why not? After all, chewing gum also sticks under school desks - and it's not easy to get it out of your hair anyway. "The mucous membranes throughout the digestive tract are covered with a film of fluid that prevents this," explains Terjung.
The digestible components are broken down by acid and enzymes - and do not clog the stomach. The indigestible so-called chewing gum base, which makes the candy so sticky and rubbery, is excreted in the bowel movements.
Claim: Intentional squinting can last forever.
Facts: Children like to make faces - this includes squinting their eyes. But those who are really affected by it cannot simply control it. Squinting is a mostly constant or recurring misalignment of one or both eyes, as the Professional Association of German Ophthalmologists (BVA) writes. The eyes do not look in the same direction. Squinting is not just a cosmetic defect, but is often associated with severe visual impairment.
“A temporary, intentional, conscious, usually strained squint leads to double vision, but generally not to permanent damage,” says ophthalmologist Horst Helbig from the Regensburg University Hospital to the dpa. In addition, baby squinting with changing eye positions is common in the first six months of life. However, if the children continue to squint afterwards, Helbig says they should see an ophthalmologist as quickly as possible - so that irreversible visual impairments do not develop.
In order for us to see spatially, both eyes must look at the same place. According to the BVA, a slightly different image is created in both eyes. These two images then merge in the brain to form a single visual impression.
When people squint, their visual axes do not meet in the same place. "The difference between the two images provided by the eyes becomes too great. They can no longer coincide properly in the brain," writes the association. As a result, spatial perception is not possible and those affected see disturbing double images.
Claim: Reading in the dark damages your eyes.
Facts: Despite it being bedtime, the daughter doesn't want to go to sleep yet - the chapter in her book is just too exciting. So she secretly crawls under the covers with a flashlight. Reading in the dark or in poor light is said to damage your eyes. There seems to be something in the myth. “Reading in poor light in childhood is considered a risk factor for the development or worsening of myopia,” says ophthalmologist Helbig.
In a 2014 study by the Queensland University of Technology, researchers came to the following conclusion: Children who spend longer outdoors in bright light have better eyesight than those who do so less often. These are usually short-sighted.
Claim: Anyone who sits crooked gets a hunchback.
Facts: Children and teenagers love to lounge around. Sitting or standing casually or crookedly looks cooler than a forced, upright posture. But does this actually result in a crooked back – or even a hunchback? No, says Bernd Kladny, Secretary General of the German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU). "I think they have to sit crooked for a long time and a lot to get a hunchback. That doesn't happen if they spend an afternoon crooked while doing their homework."
In order to prevent back problems, perfect posture is not necessarily important. It's more about getting enough exercise in everyday life, says Kladny. "Humans are running animals, not sloths." Muscles are needed to stabilize the spine – and exercise is important for this. You have to move away from the sole idea of the correct sitting and standing posture in the sense of a straight back.