IS YAWNING CONTAGIOUS?

Why is it that when you see someone yawn, you have the inexplicable urge to yawn? Just writing this blog about yawning makes me think about yawning.

It may be a form of social bonding. Children don’t develop this behaviour until they are around 4 years old.  A child with autism is half as likely to mimic a yawn and if the case is severe, most likely will never respond to a yawn.

A clinical psychology graduate student at the University of Connecticut,  Molly Helt, says that “emotional contagion seems to be a primal instinct that binds us together and yawning may be a part of that.” She became interested in this when she tried to get her autistic son to clear his ears on an airplane. She continually yawned in front of him hoping that he would yawn back. He did not.

She believes that this could mean autistic children are missing out on the “unconscious emotional linkage to those around them.”

Fetuses begin yawning in the womb as early as 11 weeks after conception, says Robert Provine, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Scientists cannot explain why yawning continues throughout life. Studies do not show that yawning helps bring in more oxygen. In fact, all vertebrates yawn, including snakes and lizards.

Contagious yawning only occurs with humans and chimpanzees and possibly dogs.

The theory is that contagious yawning is a shared experience that promotes social bonding. It might diffuse stress after a peirod of being on high alert and spread calm througout a group.

To determine when in life the behaviour develops, Helt read a story to 120 children, ages 1-6. The children were grouped by age. All the one- year- olds heard one story, all the two -year -olds heard another story and so on. There were 20 children in each group.

During each 10 minute story, Helt yawned on purpose every 90 seconds. A camera recorded whether the children were watching her and if they yawned, too. The experiment was repeated with 28 autistic children ages 6-15.

None of the healthy one-year-olds yawned. Only one of the two-year-olds yawned back. Two of the three-year-olds yawned back. In the group of 4 year-olds, 9 out or 20 children yawned back. The same rate occurred in the older groups.

Between 40-60% of healthy adults yawns after seeing someone yawn, thing about yawning or read the word “yawn”.

In the autistic children groups, only one-half of the children with mild autism yawned back. Kids with the most severe diagnosis never yawned back.

Robert Provine thinks yawning is a big deal because it is ancient and deep and is a “primal social bonding process”. He believes it is the “roots of empathy”.

I must fall into the 40-60%of adults who yawn after reading the word “yawn” because I have been yawning privately since I began writing this blog.

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Pomegranates and Fertility

Was the apple in the Garden of Eden really a pomegranate?

Pomegranate has been studied through the ages for its medicinal properties and has been held sacred by many of the world’s major religions.

It has been touted to improve women’s fertility and to ensure good health of the baby.

In China, when something worth celebrating happens and friends and family want to give a congratulatory gift, pomegranates are often the choice. The fruit can be found in traditional Chinese paintings and represents good luck, fortune and fertility.

Studies have shown that regular consumption of pomegranate juice could protect against fatty acid damage to sperm because of the anti oxidant content.

An article in Clinical Nutrition from April 2008 detailed a study performed on rats that were given pomegranate juice for 7 weeks. Pre trial measurements of body and reproductive organ weights, spermatogenic cell density, sperm characterisitcs, levels of antioxidant vitamins, testoseteone and other more detailed measurements were documented.

The results showed an increase in glutathione and vitamin C levels. It also provided an increase in sperm concentration, sperm motility and spermatogenic cell density as well as other sperm qualities.

This study suggests that pomegranate juice consumption improves sperm quality and antioxidant activity in rats.

Does it work in humans? The internet is filled with anecdotal reports that it does. At this time no clinical trial has been performed on humans.

The thing is that pomegranates are good for most people. There is some evidence that people on certain cholesterol medications shouldn’t drink pomegranate juice, mostly statin type drugs. It also has a high concentration of sugar, so it is important to keep that in mind if you are diabetic.

The level of antioxidants in the juice is beneficial to your heart because it may block the build up of cholesterol in the arteries. Antioxidants protect the heart by reducing low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”.

So, a glass of pomegranate juice is beneficial for most people. It is a strong juice and some people like mixing it with sparkling water or plain water.

Give it a try and see if you like it. Keep in mind the benefits and the downfalls and talk with your doctor about consuming it if you are on statin drugs or diabetic.

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Howling At The Moon-

When I worked in the ER, it was a well known fact that if it was crazier than normal, it was because of a full moon.

But does the full moon influence our behavior?

In 19th century England, lawyers used it as a defense and called it “guilty by reason of the full moon”. They claimed that their “lunatic” clients could not be held responsible for their actions under a full moon.

In his book written in 1978, How the Moon Affects You, psychiatrist Arnold Lieber stated that the moon has an effect on the human body much like it’s pull on the ocean tides. He based this theory on the fact that the body is composed of 65% water. The science behind his theory was not well substantiated.

The University of Sydney did several studies in an attempt to prove that the full moon effects behavior. One study looked at violent and aggressive behavior during a full moon and the other looked at dog bites that required hospitalization. No correlation could be made.

Ivan Kelly, a psychologist at the University of Saskatchewan, reviewed over 100 studies of lunar cycles and behavior that included ER visits and suicides  and could find nothing that suggested a relationship between a full moon and behavior.

Despite this, 81% of mental health professionals believe that lunar cycles affect human behavior. This number comes from a study done at the University of New Orleans.

This belief that the full moon has power over human behavior has been called “the Transylvania Affect”. Some believe that before there was modern lighting, the full moon affected the sleep-wake cycle, leading to sleep deprivation during the cycle. Sleep deprivation then led to abnormal behavior.  It has been argued that sleep deprivation could induce hypomania in some bipolar patients and seizures in patients with seizure disorders.

A study was done in 2000 that showed that the mental health of schizophrenic patients deteriorates during a full moon. A series of face-to-face assessments with 100 other patients with varying psychiatric disorders was also done. Four separate interviews with each patient over a period of 30 months was done to assess mental state and quality of life.  The schizophrenic patients demonstrated a significant decrease in mental state as measured with the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. The other group with “mood disorders” showed no change during the full moon cycle.

It appears that scientifically, the full moon does not affect human behavior. However, the “transylvania affect” has been around for awhile and I doubt that those who believe this will change because of scientific evidence.

I still remember how crazy the ER seemed to be during the full moon cycle and feel grateful that I’m no there.

During the next full moon, see if you notice anything strange about the behavior of those around you. Howling at the moon does not count.

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Bio-Tech Food- GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms)

What are GMOs?

GMOs are crop plants created for human or animal consumption that have had their genetic makeup altered. The purpose of this is to increase their resistance to herbicides or improve their nutritional content. Genetic engineering can create plants with the desired trait rapidly and with great accuracy. Genes can be transferred from one plant to another but genes from non-plant organisms can also be used. The best example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops.  B.t. is Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. This protein is transferred into corn which enables the corn to produce it’s own pesticides against insects.

Many third world countries rely on rice as the main staple of their diet, but rice does not contain adequate amounts of all of the necessary nutrients needed to prevent malnutrition. A strain of rice has been created termed “golden rice”  that contains an unusually high content of beta-carotene (Vitamin A). By eating this rice a portion of the necessary Vitamin A will be consumed.

In the works are edible vaccines that will be placed in tomatoes and potatoes which will eliminate costly storage of vaccines unavailable to many third world countries.

Thirteen countries grew genetically engineered crops commercially in 2000. The US produced 68% of these crops. Argentina, Canada and China produced 23%, 7% and 1% respectively. Soybeans and corn are the two most widely grown crops followed by cotton, canola and potatoes. Of these, 74% were modified for herbicide tolerance and 19% were modified for insect pest resistance.

Sounds pretty good so far.

There are criticisms of this technology and lots of it. The following are some of the major concerns surrounding GMOs:

1.  Tendencies to provoke allergic reactions ( allergenicity)- There is the possibility that by  introducing a gene into a plant, a new allergen could be created.

2.   Gene transfer- transferring genes from GM foods to the cells of the body or to the bacteria in the GI tract would be concerning if the transferred genetic material adversely affected human health. This would be really important if antibiotic resistance genes were transferred. AND, it would be detrimental if the bacteria in your GI tract was changed dramatically.

3.    Outcrossing- movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops in the wild and the mixing of crops from conventional seeds with those grown using GM crops. The outcome of this could be plants that are pollinated by GM plants, therefore becoming genetically altered as well.

4.    Unintended harm to other organisms- A study was done a published in Nature that showed pollen from B.t. corn caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars. The effect on other living organisms is unpredictable.

Other concerns are the effect on the endocrine system, reproductive system and a possible link to an increase in obesity.

At this time, foods are not required to indicate if they are GMOs. There has been much debate about this recently which will continue for a while to come. This fact in itself has caused many groups to promote the avoidance of GMOs.

So, there is alot more to learn about GMO crops. There certainly are many legitimate concerns and I have included some links to more information. Use this information to make your own personal decision about whether to eat GMO foods or not.

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php/review.pdf

http://foodwatch.de/english/golden_rice/golden_rice2009/index_ger.html

http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions

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Showering and Talking on the Phone During a Thunderstorm- Is It Safe?

A mother myth or not?

At the first sound  of thunder my mother would start alerting everyone to “get off the phone”.  Not cell phones, but land line phones. And whatever you do, don’t get in the tub or shower.  Lightning can electrocute you. OMG.

As an impressionable young girl and believer of all things frightening, the thought of being hit by lightning in the bath tub was a fear that has been imprinted in my brain ever since. I tried to sneak a phone call once during a storm until I heard a loud crackle during a pop of lightning and was sure that my ear drum had been hit.

Lightning is powerful. The peak power of lightning can be more than a billion kilowatts transmitted in one stroke. Anything that conducts electricity can be a pathway for the electrical surge. This includes anything plugged in at home;  land line phones, plumbing, refrigerators, televisions, metal doors, computers, etc…However, by the time this electrical surge reaches indoors, the power jolt has been drastically reduced.

Metal pipes can carry current as well as anything. The plumbing can transmit a shock if you are sitting in the bath tub. Although there have been no reported deaths resulting from lightning in a bath tub or shower, why take a chance?

There is a documented case from 2006 where a 64 year old man was killed when lightning struck his telephone line while he was on it. During the past 25 years there have been at least 5 reports of serious injuries to people using a phone during a telephone strike. Again, why talk on the phone during a storm and if you must, use a cell phone. You cannot be electrocuted through a cell phone while inside because radio waves do not conduct electricity. Obviously, the cell phone cannot be connected to tan electrical outlet.

This isn’t to say that cell phones are safe OUTSIDE during a thunderstorm. There have been a number of cases of injuries to people while on their cell phone during a thunderstorm. Skin is a slow condutor of electricity, but if you are holding a metal object to your ear and are hit by a lightning strike, the metal will conduct the electricity through your body.

If you have an IPod plugged into your ears, and you are struck by a lightning bolt nearby, your eardrums will probably be ruptured and you will have deep burn lines where the headphone wires are draped on your body.

Lessons to be learned. Your mother WAS right.

AND be fearful of lightning. Don’t go outside during a lightning storm and if you are caught outside, don’t hold anything metallic.

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Does Alcohol Protect Against Food Poisoning?

According to the New York Times, it can.

In an article from 2005 a study was cited that said that a little alcohol may help ward off heart disease and slow dementia. BUT, it may also prevent food poisoning.

In 2001, health officials in Spain studied an outbreak of salmonella on those people who had been exposed to contaminated potato salad and tuna at a large banquet (Just reading that made me a little queasy). Their findings were published in the journal Epidemiology  and showed that the protective effect of alcohol was greatest  for subjects who drank more than 40 grams of alcohol. A standard drink in the US contains 14 grams of alcohol. The math tells me that 3 standard drinks would be required to protect myself from food poisoning.

In 1992, in a study done in the USA, health officials looked at an oyster-borne outbreak of Hepatitis A. They concluded that only drinks with a concentration of 10% alcohol or greater prevented or reduced the severity of the sickness. Those people who had drinks with less than 10% alcohol did not seem to have any protection.

Another study done on a group of passengers on a cruise ship after an outbreak of gastroenteritis showed that consuming alcohol may have prevented them from getting sick.

Why would alcohol be protective? Alcohol has the ability to stimulate gastric acid secretions in the stomach. Wine may be effective because it has antibacterial properties.

So should you drink 40gms of alcohol anytime you think you might be eating some contaminated food? Probably not, but it is good to know that alcohol does have some redeeming qualities.

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BPA and the FDA

BPA- Bisphenol A.

A chemical used in producing plastic and resins.

A synthetic estrogen .

Used in thousands of products made of hard, clear ploycarbonate plastics and tough epoxy resins. Found in water and beverage bottles, epoxy paint, eyeglasses, etc…

Why the concern:

BPA based plastics break down easily, especially when heated or washed with a strong detergent. In August 2008, Scientific American published an article entitled "Just How Harmful Are Bisphenol A Plastics?". It tells the story of Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Case Western Reserve University. She had been studying why human reproduction was filled with complications. She thought that chromosomally abnormal eggs in human pregnancies were tied to our hormones. She was ready to publish a paper that outlined the results of her experiments on hormone levels of female mice. She was just making sure that the control population, the mice that were left alone, were normal. The results were startling: of the control mice, 40% had egg defects.

She was unable to publish her findings and searched to find out what had happened. It took her 4 months but she finally discovered the problem. The janitor. A change in protocol turned the mice’s safe environment into a toxic environment. An abrasive floor cleaner instead of the usual mild detergent was used to wash out the cages and water bottles. The acidic solution scarred the hard surface of the plastic and allowed a single chemical to leach out- BPA.

This all happened in 1998 and she began to speak out on the possible human health threats of BPA. She and another scientist, Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the university of Missouri-Columbia, began to sound the alarm. Their critics labeled them as alarmists.

During the manufacturing process not all BPA gets locked into chemical bonds. The left over BPA can work itself free, especially when the plastic is heated such as washing a bottle in the dishwasher or heating a food container in the microwave.

Patricia Hunt now focuses on and abnormal number of chromosomes in eggs that cause birth defects and miscarriages. She exposed pregnant mice to BPA just as the ovaries in their developing female fetuses were producing their lifetime supply of eggs. After they became adults, 40% of their eggs were damaged. Exposing the pregnant mouse basically effected the offspring of future generations.

BPA can also leach from canned foods. Especially canned tomatoes because of their acidity.

In 2008 the National Toxicology Program found that BPA at current human exposure levels may be toxic to the brain, behavior and prostate bland of fetuses, infants and children.

Manufacturers like Nalgene, Cambelbak and Playtex offer non-BPA bottles and Wal-Mart, Toys R Us  and other reatilers have discontinued sales of BPA-based plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and other food containers. Six major companies* have stopped using BPA-based plastic in baby bottles for the U.S. market.

In January 2010 the Federal Food and Drug Administration changed it’s mind and no longer asserted that trace BPA contamination in food and beverages is safe and launced a new investigaton of low dose BPA risks and encouraged industries to develop BPA free can lining.

BUT, in March of this year, the FDA allowed BPA to remain approved as a chemical additive in food containers. However, concern still remains, especially for young chemicals because of the use of BPA in infant formula containers and  baby bottles. The FDA’s findings supported by the National Institue of Enviornmental Health Sciences and the national Toxicology Program state that the level of BPA from food that could be passed from pregnant motehrs to the fetus is so low that is could not be measured. They also said that exposure to BPA in human infants is from 84 to 92% less than previously estimated.

Ironically, the FDA also has web pages with helpful information for parents and consumers who want to avoid BPA. One such article is “What you can do to minimize your infant’s exposure ot BPA”.

It is hard to know for sure the dangers lurking in BPA, but there are numerous scientific articles available for review that expose the dangers that may exist. Some say this is a political fight because the government has not supported the FDA and it’s ability to do its job. There has been a lack of support to stop the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed and a trend of ingnoring the demands to label foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Again, ironically, the FDA says it is supporting the current efforts by industry to stop the manufacture of infant bottles and feeding cups made with BPA fromt he U.S. market". Hmmmmm.

What do I think? I think that I will avoid any contamination from BPA and other toxic chemicals, hormones and additives whenever possible.

It may be that the FDA won’t ban these chemicals, but we don’t have to buy products that contain them.

For more information go to:

http://www.ewg.org/reports/bpatimeline

Scientific American, August 26, 2008, "Just How HArmful Are  Bisphenol A Plastics"

http://www.ewg.org/sites/humantoxome/chemicals

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm297954

New York Times, march 31, 2012 “White House and FDA Often at Odds”

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MEDICAL MYTH MONDAYS- ARTHRITIS AND GIN SOAKED RAISINS

Folk remedies about many ailments abound but one of the most enduring ones is that raisins soaked in gin can help alleviate arthritis pain.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that affects approximately 27 million Americans. It comes from the loss of cartilage-that part of a joint that cushions the bones and allows for easy movement. With less cartilage between the bones, the bones begin to rub together. This creates stiffness and pain and over time can limit mobility of the sufferer. Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

Common treatments include non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, steroids, narcotics and physical therapy. For some people, the pain persists.

No one is really sure where the recipe for gin and raisins began, but in the 1990′s Paul Harvey, the radio superstar, mentioned it during one of his broadcasts. Then in 2004, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, spoke in Nevada about health care. During her talk she brought up a ” highly effective” remedy for arthritis that drew laughter and skepticism from the audience. The remedy she mentioned was raisins soaked in gin.

But, those that use it and get relief, praise the concotion.

Why would it work?                                       

1.    Golden raisins- the ONLY type of raisins worthy of the recipe- require sulfur or sulfides in their processing to make them golden. Sulfur is an active ingredient in 2 effective natural arthritis supplenents: glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. Golden raisins come from sultana grapes and are cultivated under the name Thompson seedless grapes in the U.S.

2.      Sultana grapes contain proanthocyanidins which are thought to help fight infections and reduce inflammation. Grapes also contain resveratrol, a powerfrul  anti oxidant that is being studied for many of it’s disease fighting properties.

3.       Gin is flavored with juniper berries and juniper berries contain Terpinen. Terpinen has anti inflammatory properties. The essential oil that is in juniper berries contains more than 100 compounds including myrcene (an anti oxidant), catechins (anti oxidant),  and flavanoids (anti oxidant). Test tube studies have shown that juniper berries can inhibit prostaglandin synthesis.  Prostaglandins help mediate an inflammatory response and increase the sensitivity of nerve endings to pain. By inhibiting their production, a reduction in pain can occur. Aspirin and non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs work because of this same principle.

So what is the recipe for this gin and raisin mixture?

Take 1 box of golden raisins, place them in a bowl and cover them with gin. Let the mixture sit until the gin evaporates. This could take a week or more. Then place the raisins in a clean jar and cover with a tight lid. Eat 9 gin soaked raisins per day. Give it time and see if it helps.

Why 9 raisins and not 8 or 10? Do other alcohols offer the same benefits? I dont’know the answers to these questions but alot of people think this  works. So unless you are allergic to gin or raisins, it might be worth a try.

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The Color of Romance

An article came out today stating that men are attracted to women dressed in red because that signals that they might be interested in “romance”.

Women have been wearing shades of red in clothing and make up since Cleopatra and earlier. After all, red is the color of the heart.

Adam Pazda, a psychologist at the University of Rochester in New York state states that when primate female becomes fertile, their estrogen levels peak which in turn opens their blood vessels and turns their face bright red. This flushing of the complexion signals to the males that it’s time to make their move.

Pazda and his colleagues showed 25 men a photo of a single woman made to look like she was wearing either a red or white T-shirt. Then the researchers asked the volunteers how keen they perceived the woman to be in regards to her interest in romance. The woman in red was thought to have more interest in sex compared to when she wearing white.

It is impossible to say why men like red so much. It could be evolutionary but it could also be a cultural phenomenon.

Color and smell are obviously important in the mating game in the animal kingdom. They release scents into the surrounding area which sends a chemical message to other animals in the area and triggers a sexual response. Female butterflies release pheromones ( scents) into the air and the male butterfly will find her and begin mating.

Women are also influenced by the colors that men wear. Women are attracted to men wearing the color blue. Reportedly, guys that wear blue are perceived to be stable, faithful, constant and always there”* according to color consultant Leatrice Eisman.

According to her,  men are attracted to a pink-peach color on women. It is “flattering to most skin tones, it gives you a health glow”. It also projects a “little vulnerability which brings out something protective in men”. Eisman also agrees that red is the most sensual. The color “squished caterpillar yellow-green” tends to repel both men and women.

In another study done at the University de Bretagne-Sud in France in 2010 it was found that women hitch hikers that wore red solicited a higher response in the number of male drivers that stopped to offer a ride. No color affect was found when considering the behavior of female drivers.  4800 drivers all driving alone in their cars were solicited at the entry of a famous peninsula of Brittany in France. Five young, brown haired Caucasian women ranging in age from 19-22 and all rated as middle of the scale attractiveness were placed as hitch hikers. Each woman wore a pair of neat blue jeans, sneakers of a light color and figure hugging t-shirt. Only the color of the t-shirt was different. The results showed that only the males were affected by the color of the t-shirt.

Is this societal conditioning considering that red is the color of love?  Or is this biological? Or maybe red just is a better color for brunettes.

Yet another study showed that women wearing red lipstick in photographs were perceived to be more attractive than women who weren’t wearing red lipstick.

Other recent studies have demonstrated the positive effects of red clothing on success in competitive sports. This could be from a predisposition to relating red to a dominant position.

Red is also associated with fertility which may be another reason why men are attracted to women in red. Interestingly, color attractiveness was associated when males were judged by men or women and when women were judged by men. Color attractiveness was not identified when women judged women.

Red was not the only color identified that made a difference. Black was also associated with higher attractiveness scores. There was not much difference in the scores of those wearing red and black because both were associated with higher scores than other colors.  At the other end, wearing white and yellow produced a negative effect.

It was also shown that females are influenced by clothing color in judgment of male attractiveness, therefore, females are sensitive to color cues in social contexts. Hoevever, there was no effect when females in different colors were rated by other females.

What does all of this mean? It means that men identify color attractiveness in women and men and women identify color attractiveness in men. Women don’t identify color attractiveness in other women.

So are red and black the best colors to wear? I think it all goes back to wearing what color you think you look best in. When you feel like you are attractive your self confidence increases. Self confidence has been identified as an attractive asset. So wear what makes up feel good, even if it isn’t black or red.

This romance thing is so complicated anyway, I don’t think that the color of your t shirt will make or break the feeling. What do you think?

* Leatrice Eiseman, Director of the Pantone Color Institute, author of Colors For Your Every Mood

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Chiggers and Nail Polish

It is only February but it will get hot here in the not too distant future. Bugs love the heat and humidity and generally in the South we think about mosquitoes as being our most hated culprit.                                    

But what about chiggers? Annoying little creatures that can’t be seen with the naked eye but can make your life miserable. As a kid growing up in the South I heard all sorts of horror stories about chiggers AND believed everyone of them.

The real truth is that chiggers are not bugs at all. They are the juvenile or larvae form of mites, which may sound more frightening than if they were bugs. Mites are arachnids like spiders and scorpions and are relatives of ticks. Not sounding any better. Being the juveniles that they are, they feed on us BUT only in their childhood. Once they are adults, they become vegetarians and only live in the soil. Great, so they are nasty little creatures that like to suck our blood.

Not exactly.

They are very small only about 1/150inch in diameter. They don’t really bite us so we don’t generally notice them until the itchy rash starts 12-24 hours later. They like to move around looking for the best seat in the house to feast. Usually that is a thin layer of skin. If they run into an obstacle like a waistband, watch or tight socks, they will stop there and start to feed. Once they have found their spot, they attach themselves to your skin and inject saliva that has digestive enzymes used to break down your skin cells. The chigger LOVES skin cells. After the chigger injects it’s saliva, your skin reacts by hardening the cells on the sides of the saliva path forming a hard, tube like structure. So now the chigger can sit on your skin and drink your liquefied tissue through a straw. The chigger can take up to 4 days to enjoy their feast. After all, this is their first and last meal as a juvenile.

They can stay attached for days but are generally easy to get rid of when you shower, bathe or scratch the area.

Now that we know how they work, lets look at some of the myths that abound about them:

1.    They can burrow under your skin and drink your blood- No, they do not burrow under the skin nor do they drink our blood. They are not miniature vampires.

2.     They are red from drinking human blood- see above

3.      They burrow under the skin and die there- See #1

3.      Nail polish will smother the chigger- Not true because they don’t burrow in your skin.

4.      Use turpentine, kerosene, ammonia, alcohol, gasoline or dry-cleaning fluid to clean the skin- What? Not necessary and dangerous.

4.      The tiny hole or red bump that you see is where chiggers lay their eggs- They can’t lay eggs because they are babies. Only adults can lay eggs and the adults aren’t interested in your skin.

5.      Chiggers like women and children better than men- This is actually true because women and children generally have thinner skin and are easier for the chigger to attack.

What can you do to get rid of chiggers? The best thing to do is after you come inside, take a warm soapy bath and scrub your skin. They fall off easily so the sooner you bathe, the better chance you have of removing them before they settle in.

If you are going to be outside for long periods of time, try and wear long sleeves and long pants. As soon as you come inside, take a bath or shower and wash your skin off using a cloth or something mildly abrasive.  There are plenty of commercial insect repellants, but use them with discretion.

Now that you know all you need to know about chiggers, you only need to worry about spiders, mosquitoes, ticks, etc……. Enjoy your summer outdoors.

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