Some of their outdated tips may compromise your care or sabotage your health goals. Here, medical advice you can safely ignore.
Doctors help bodies heal and stay healthy, but they’re still human. So your physician might not have gotten every memo on the latest findings from health research done in the past few years.
As a result, some of her recommendations may be out-of-date, unhelpful, or even harmful. Case in point: Although research has proved that cloudy mucus often isn’t a sign of a bacterial infection, physicians are six times as likely to prescribe antibiotics to patients whose nasal discharge has a greenish tint compared with those whose discharge is clear.
We’ve combed through the most recent research and consulted experts on the latest thinking in nutrition, fitness, sleep, back pain, and more. Read on to learn what long-standing advice you should trash—and the smarter, science-backed tips you should replace it with.
Old Medical Advice: Many dentists advise their patients to scrub away cavity-causing plaque as soon as possible.
Nine in ten Americans believe that it’s important to brush immediately after each meal, according to an American Dental Association survey.
New Medical Advice: Rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating, but wait 30 minutes before you brush.
Making a beeline for the sink may harm your teeth by rubbing in acids from foods and beverages such as citrus fruit, vinegar, and soda. This could wear down the tooth enamel and underlying dentin. “Similar to scrubbing detergent into a pan, brushing can rub in acid and lead to damage,” says Steven Ghareeb, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry and a dentist based in Charleston, West Virginia.
Old Medical Advice: If your mucus is green, you have a bacterial infection and need an antibiotic.
Many doctors still believe this myth because it seems biologically plausible, says Rachel Vreeman, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University and coauthor of Don’t Cross Your Eyes … They’ll Get Stuck That Way. A yellow or greenish-looking nasal discharge suggests that bacteria are present and producing pus. But the science has shown this isn’t always true.
New Medical Advice: Don’t press your doctor for antibiotics. The tinted mucus is a normal by-product of the healing process. To fight an infection, white blood cells release enzymes to kill invaders. Some enzymes contain iron, which has a greenish color. Cloudy mucus doesn’t automatically signify a bacterial infection. “You’re likely battling a virus, which will go away on its own,” says Aaron Carroll, MD, Dr. Vreeman’s coauthor.
So why does your doc still break out the prescription pad? Some physicians just assume patients want an antibiotic because they often request one. But overprescribing has consequences. “Giving people more antibiotics can lead to resistance,” says Dr. Carroll. If your doctor suggests an antibiotic, ask if it’s really necessary.
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