Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
On this day of hoaxes, pranks, and practical jokes, do you fall on the side of trying to fool others, or will you be the recipient of someone’s attempt at humor? Many think of this as a modern day idea, but historians speculate April Fools’ day dates back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.
In the Julian calendar, each new year began with the spring equinox which fell around April 1. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize the start of the next year became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called April fools.
What better time than today to look at some of the most unusual medical and health myths throughout history. For example, while there is no evidence of its curative value, did you know that in the 1500s mercury was used to treat syphilis? In the early 20th century, people were led to believe a radioactive drink would cure what ailed them. And yikes, medieval physicians used the business end of a cautery iron to treat hemorrhoids. More recently shark cartilage was peddled to treat cancer.
If these aren’t enough, Ancient Rome’s Pliny the Elder was the go-to guy when it came to midwifery. Pliny convinced women that a dollop of goose semen in their drinking water eased a pregnant woman’s pain. And for you men out there, Dr. Sanders’ electric belt sent an electric pulse into the privates which was supposed to cure men’s lost manhood.
Myths are contagious in that once a person hears something and passes it to another and then another, suddenly it is viewed as true. No, your heartbeat does not skip a beat if you sneeze. Carrots won’t improve night vision. And which is it, starve a cold and feed a fever, or starve a fever and feed a cold? Well actually, it’s neither.
So here is a quiz. Can you figure out what is true and what is not? Do adults have fewer bones than babies? Are you taller first thing in the morning? Can bad teeth and gums lead to heart disease?
These are all actually true. Adults have fewer bones than babies because infants are born with some bones that fuse together to become a bigger bone. Also, you may be a centimeter taller first thing in the morning which is a result of gravity compressing your joints during the course of the day. It’s also why when astronauts return after a space mission, they are slightly taller than when they left earth. If you have bad teeth you are more susceptible to heart disease because bacteria that causes gum disease can circulate through the blood and causes illness other places in the body.
So, back to this day of tomfoolery. We’ve all heard laughter is the best medicine. There will always be truth and myths, so keep laughing with conviction. Like myths, laughter is contagious.
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