Green Snake

5 Popular Quick-Fix Cures (That Do More Harm Than Good)

Exactly one week ago published my article – “5 Myths About Curing Common Injuries (You Probably Believe)“.

By popular(ish) request, here are five of the many entries that, for various reasons, didn’t make the final cut:

The human body is a fragile thing. Today you’re perfectly healthy; tomorrow you wake up with no skin, five tentacles and a mullet, or something equally horrible. You can’t predict how your body will fail you next.

Luckily, we know many quick and easy ways to cure our own ailments without those fancy doctors and their fancy words like “hygiene” and “fresh air”.

It’s just too bad that many of these “cures” are far more likely to leave you worse off than you were to start with. For instance…

5. Brushing teeth straight after a meal damages them

Rejected due to having already been covered in this Cracked article.

The Quick Cure

Do you know who charges way too much for their services? Yes, high class escorts, but you know who else? Sure, mafia’s body removal specialists, but that’s not what I was going for. I was going for “dentists”, but you had to go and ruin it with your weird guesses, didn’t you?

Dentists, in addition to being embodiments of everyone’s nightmares, will actually make you pay money for having holes drilled into your teeth with power tools masquerading as medical instruments. Most of us would be happy to never visit a dentist again in our lives, as long as we’re able to keep our teeth healthy on our own.

There are many things you can do to maintain a good oral hygiene: floss regularly, use mouthwash, eat lots of bacon-flavoured cheese crackers (the last claim is still being disputed by the medical community). But most importantly, you have to remember to brush your teeth at least two times a day. Everyone knows that.

Well, if you’re going to do that, you may as well brush your teeth immediately after the meal, right? There’s no point in leaving all that food to linger inside your mouth, causing tooth decay and making your breath smell awful (I’m sorry, but someone had to tell you). Right?

Black Gas Mask

No no, it’s not you, it’s me! I always wear gas masks to social gatherings.

The Damage

Wrong, actually. It turns out that brushing your teeth right after a meal is a “no-no” (incidentally, saying “no-no” is also a big “no-no”). This is especially true if you just had some fizzy drinks or acidic foods. Acid softens the enamel, so when you grab that toothbrush and start vigorously scrubbing your teeth you’re scraping away the very thing that helps protect them in the first place. So you’re actually causing more damage in an attempt to protect your teeth from damage. While this heps you effectively demonstrate the concept of irony, it only brings that dreaded dentist visit closer.

What Can You Do Instead?

You could wait a little bit. It is much better to wait at least an hour after the meal. Then your saliva can work its magic and neutralize all of the acid. At that point you can go crazy with that tooth brush, if you’re so inclined. Don’t go too crazy though, psychiatrists aren’t cheap either.

4. Drinking water after spicy food just spreads the spice around

Rejected during editorial process.

The Quick Cure

Spicy food is awesome. If there’s one universal truth in this world, it’s the fact that all people love spicy food. There are no exceptions. If someone doesn’t love spicy food, they’re probably not a person at all.

Unfortunately, like all awesome things in life spicy food has its downsides. You’re bound to wake up with a bad case of explosive diarrhoea the day after, your sweat glands go into overdrive and your mouth feels like somebody set fire to it. If you’re creative you can pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon and entertain dinner guests at that Mexican restaurant with your improvised “burning the villagers” routine. Although if you’re like most of us, you will probably make some incomprehensible whimpering noises, leak fluids from your eyes and flap your hands really fast in an attempt to send extra air into your burning mouth.

It’s at this stage that your well-meaning friends will start pushing their water-filled glasses towards you and saying encouraging things like “Drink the water, it will help” and “Stop being such a damn crybaby”.

Everyone knows that water will help get rid of that spice and cool your mouth down to normal temperatures. So go right ahead and chug, chug, chug…

Glass Of Blue Water

“Water never hurt nobody” – someone who hasn’t heard of floods or tsunamis

The Damage

…chug, chu…oh, wait, that isn’t helping in any way! Instead you can feel the spice burning a whole different area of your mouth now. What the hell happened?

You’ve sloshed pain-triggering capsaicin around your mouth, that’s what! Capsaicin in spicy food is not water soluble, so the only thing you’ve succeeded in doing is spreading it all over the inside of your mouth. It’s kind of the equivalent of having a headache and then trying to fix it by smothering it all over your spine and leg joints. Analogies are tricky, so please bear with me.

Water offers a very temporary relief, but does nothing at all to solve the underlying “burning ouchie in your mouth” problem. That’s why you usually find yourself helplessly downing glass after glass of water until you pass out from water overdose. Maybe that’s just me.

What Can You Do Instead?

There’s actually a whole range of foods you can eat that do help. Most dairy products are great at neutralising the effects of acid. Then there’s simple stuff like bread, which helps absorb the spicy oils like a sponge that absorbs spicy things (totally nailed that analogy). There’s apparently also chocolate, sugar, ice-cream and beer. So really, eating spicy food is the perfect excuse you need to consume all the otherwise unhealthy stuff, which just brings me back to my starting point:  spicy food is awesome!

3. Attempting to suck poison out of a snakebite is a terrible idea

Rejected due to having already been covered in this Cracked article.

The Quick Cure

So you’re frolicking through the Amazon rain-forest with your best buddy. Both of you are wearing shorts and T-shirts, because neither of you has any sense of self-preservation and you’re both the type of people who would use the word “frolicking” in a sentence. Fed up with all the frolicking, you decide to challenge your friend to a lightsaber duel. You each grab a stick and start swinging them at each other.

Except your friend has just grabbed an Amazonian palm viper instead of a stick, because your friend doesn’t know how to tell the difference (refer to “no sense of self-preservation” above). Pit viper, not taking kindly to being used as a prompt in your Star Wars reenactment, conveys his displeasure by biting your friend in the arm and pumping him full of some very unpleasant venom.

The good news:
You have won the lightsaber duel! You are the true champion of starship Enterprise (sorry, I don’t own a TV).

The bad news:
You now have to help your friend not die, because you’d be a pretty shitty person otherwise. Maybe you should have thought of that before starting duels in the middle of the Amazon rain-forest.

Not to worry, you’ve seen this in virtually every movie – all you have to do is cut the wound open and suck out the poison. That lady from that movie with all those snakes on the plane (the title escapes you) did it, and it totally worked. Movies would never lie to you, would they? You take out your trusty (or was it “rusty”?) pocket knife and set to work…

Pocket Knife With Carry Bag

I use knives to solve all my problems. I’m also wanted in 117 countries.

The Damage

…congratulations, you have just made things a lot worse. All those precious seconds you could have spent on getting your friend some real medical help were wasted on carving your initials into his arm. By trying to suck out the poison you have introduced some nasty bacteria from that nasty mouth of yours into the wound. If you were too enthusiastic you probably caused some nerve and tissue damage as well. Why do you hate your friend so much?

But at least it helped get rid of the poison, right?

Nope! In fact, by making an open wound with a knife you helped the venom enter the bloodstream a lot faster than it otherwise would have. You’re a real dick, did you know that?

What Can You Do Instead?

I hate to break this to you, but unless you’re a qualified doctor, which is highly unlikely considering your juvenile lightsaber duel shenanigans, you really want to get your friend’s sorry ass to a hospital ASAP. If you’re far away from one you’ll want to dial the emergency services and stay put until they get there. Applying first aid helps, of course, as does reading these helpful tips from WikiHow. I could have just sent you to WikiHow from the start, but I need blog views and I’m not afraid to endanger your friend’s life to get them.

2. Counting sheep delays your sleep

Removed from the published article as it did not fit with the new angle.

The Quick Cure

“Insomnia is the scourge of humanity”, according to the made up quote at the beginning of this sentence. On an average night in the US alone there are up to 40 million people who struggle to fall asleep. While this is great news for late-night infomercial salesmen of Ab-Slacker 2000, it is a nightly source of frustration for the insomniacs themselves. There are only so many re-runs of Seinfeld you can watch before you swear a vendetta against all late night television.

If you’re suffering from insomnia you can do either of two things. You can wait for your condition to deteriorate to the point where Brad Pitt shows up and starts an underground MMA hobby club with you, or you can try to do something about your sleep problems.

One of the tried and true methods of boring yourself to sleep is counting sheep. The sheer monotony of this task is supposed to help your mind relax and lull you to sleep. There’s no explanation for why the same trick can’t be accomplished by counting, say, falling leaves, grains of sand, or reading transcripts from Congressional hearings.

In any case, who are we to question the age-old wisdom brought to us by the esteemed sheep counters of ancient Greece, or wherever this method has originated from. All we want is to get on the express train to Sleepy Land. If counting some farm animals helps us get there, then by Dolly we’ll count the hell out of those sheep!

Grey Sheep

Sheep A leaves field B heading South at 10 miles per hour…ZzZzzzzzzzZZz

The Damage

Hold your horses! Hold those sheep, too. It turns out that you’re doing it wrong, again.

Scientists at Oxford University one day decided to take a break from sciencing. Instead they recruited a few dozen insomniacs to “monitor” for a few nights, because staring intently at people while they fall asleep is apparently no longer reserved for stalkers and serial killers.

Despite the creepy approach, what they found was quite curious. People who were instructed to picture a relaxing scene (a beach, a waterfall, Mr. T rocking a puppy to sleep) fell asleep 20 minutes sooner than they did on other nights. Those who tried counting sheep actually took longer than usual to fall asleep. One of the scientists behind the experiment, Allison Harvey, had this to say: “Picturing an engaging scene takes up more brain space than the same dirty old sheep. Plus it’s easier to stay with it because it’s more interesting.”

There you have it, folks – a beautiful beach scene is more interesting than sheep. That’s why scientists get the big bucks!

What Can You Do Instead?

If you were paying attention you’ll know that the answer is “picture a relaxing scene”. If you have fallen asleep mid-way through the article, then congratulations – you’re doing something right!

1. Treating Panic Attacks By Breathing Into A Paper Bag Makes Them Worse

Rejected during editorial process.

The Quick Cure

You’re sitting in the cinema, watching a nice scary movie. Maybe something like The Grudge Of The Ring, or whatever new psychotropic horror the Japanese film industry has unleashed.

You’re having a wonderful time, until a disfigured 12-year old kid with way too many mouths appears on the screen and lets out a bone-chilling scream.

That’s when you suddenly remember – you hate scary movies. What the hell were you thinking?

Now you’re having a panic attack. Quick, something must be done. Your TV remote won’t turn the movie off, because that’s not how cinemas work. On a side note, you should really stop taking that remote with you everywhere.

There’s one thing you can do: breathe into a paper bag! That should calm you right down. You’ve seen it work dozens of times on television. If you can’t trust your TV, you can’t trust anyone.

You carefully empty your bag of popcorn onto your neighbour’s lap, put the empty bag over your face and start breathing. Dr. Dread, your family doctor, would be so proud!

Doctor Sketch Black

He’s a sweet and charming man.

The Damage

Actually, Dr. Dread would call you a fucking idiot. He’d probably also smack you on the head, because Dr. Dread takes “tough love” to the next level.

You see, the paper bag breathing technique used to be popular back in the day, but modern day doctors strongly discourage it. And by “modern day” I mean doctors in the freaking 1990. To put that in perspective – that’s when your cellphone needed two people to carry and operate it (my knowledge of the cellphone industry is a bit hazy).

Here’s how the traditional thinking went: when you hyperventilate during a panic attack you take in way too much oxygen. Yup, apparently “too much air” is an actual diagnosis now. Using the paper bag is supposed to help you re-breathe your own CO2 and make you feel better. Well, turns out that’s mostly bullshit.

A study by Dutch scientists has shown that the reason this method may work in the first place is mainly because you think it does.

“And so what, Daniel? Can’t you just leave us to our wishful thinking and go write about kittens, or whatever it is you do?” some of you may ask.

I could, but then you’d never learn that breathing in CO2 was actually shown to cause panic symptoms. In healthy people. See? I knew I could put a smile on your face!

As if that wasn’t enough, there are three documented cases where this treatment, wrongly applied to people who actually needed more oxygen, has resulted in death. That’s typically not something you’d like to see on a list of “possible side-effects”.

To recap, this method is more likely to cause a panic attack than to stop one and misdiagnosed application can have tragic consequences. It may occasionally work due to its placebo effect, but I’ve just fucked that up for you. You’re welcome.

What Can You Do Instead?

Doctors advise practicing slow, controlled breathing, without the aid of a paper bag. This method is otherwise known as “just breathing like a normal person”.

Also, you may want to rethink your movie choices if you’re that much of a pussy!