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9 Horrifying Ways Ordinary Things Can Harm You (Skull Eating Bacteria Is Just One)

by Jana Louise Smit
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There may be monsters in the closet after all – only this kind was purchased at the store. Everyday items sitting on the shelf are designed to make life easier. In some cases, they can do the opposite. Cosmetic treatments can cause comas and burns inside the body, while dental products come with paralysis and blue people. Then there were the exploding scooters and the earbuds that caused bacteria to eat a woman’s skull.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ridiculous Health Myths (Science Says Are Actually True)

9 Mouthwash – Higher Blood Pressure

When it comes to mouthwash, most people receive their education from television.[1] The lesson is short. Just swirl the advertised product and all your bacterial worries are over. In 2019, scientists became concerned. Not all bacteria are bandits. Was there a drawback to wiping out all dental microorganisms? They found an alarming side-effect.

First, they grilled volunteers for half an hour on a treadmill. Directly afterward, the participants gargled with either a real mouthwash or a placebo. The results were undeniable. Many people exercise for healthier blood pressure to avoid heart disease and strokes. Indeed, the placebo group showed a reduction but the volunteers who used the mouthwash experienced a drastic interference with this benefit.

The reason is nitric oxide. Produced during exercise, it opens the blood vessels which reduces blood pressure. When it degrades, a waste product called nitrate is formed. Only recently did researchers discover that certain oral bacteria turns the nitrate into nitrite. The latter is crucial to boost the production of the beneficial nitric oxide. The 2019 study proved that there are goobers in our mouths that should stay there. When they are missing, the resulting lack of nitrite prevents blood vessels from opening. As a result, no amount of exercising could lower one’s blood pressure.

8 Acid Reflux Syrup – Werewolf Syndrome

Imagine the following scenario.[2] Your infant has acid reflux and as a dutiful parent, you spoon the syrup prescribed by a doctor into the kid. Pretty soon, you have a hairy baby. Like, abnormally hairy. This happened in Spain to 17 shocked families in 2019. One infant blinked at his parents with adult eyebrows and swathes of hair on his face and limbs.

Abnormal hair growth is called hypertrichosis or “Werewolf Syndrome.” The congenital condition is diagnosed at birth. However, these children had an acquired form. In other words, they were born without the condition but something triggered it when they were around two years old. Spain’s health regulators identified a common factor – the children all used a syrup for acid reflux. It contained omeprazole but this medication had never caused excessive hair growth in anyone.

Inspectors visited the factory that sold the drug. Their shipment originally came from India but tests proved that the omeprazole was perfect. Things went wrong when the factory decided to divide the bulk shipment and re-sell the smaller batches. The idea was to stick the omeprazole label on bottles. For some reason, the labels ended up on another product at the factory, one that contained minoxidil. This compound fights baldness by encouraging hair growth. Luckily, the children are expected to shed the extra fuzz as they grow older.

7 Hoverboards – Explosions And Burns

The future has arrived.[3] Human beings are finally zipping around on hoverboards. To be fair, these devices do not fly. They resemble high-tech skateboards driven forward by an internal power source. The hoverboards became a hot item during the 2015 and 2016 holiday season. However, it became a little too hot. The battery pack’s design was faulty, causing several machines to overheat during a ride. There were fires. Some hoverboards exploded.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received 99 complaints about the two-wheeled scooters, 18 of which involved injuries. Most were burns to the limbs and neck. Needless to say, this was not what people expected after paying up to $900 for a hoverboard. The unpredictable devices were banned from campuses, railroads, and airlines due to safety concerns. Not only riders were injured but the fiery scooters also damaged property. At the end of the day, over 500,000 hoverboards were recalled from ten companies.

6 Denture Cream – Permanent Paralysis

In 2017, a man from the United Kingdom experienced symptoms that became increasingly frightening.[4] First, there was a tingling in his fingers. However, soon numbness and pain weakened his legs so much that the 62-year-old had to depend on a cane to move around. Within six months, he was housebound.

Doctors suspected a neurological problem and wheeled the patient through an MRI scan. Indeed, they found he was suffering from copper deficiency myelopathy. This was weird. The body needs very little copper. For someone to become so deficient that they develop a brain condition, something peculiar had to be going on.

The reason turned out to be an overdose of zinc. Too much zinc is known to block copper absorption. The source of the zinc turned out to be the man’s dental cream. He admitted to applying too much cream because of ill-fitting dentures. For the past fifteen years, the patient used up to four tubes a week. The cream was immediately removed from his dental regimen and he was treated with copper supplements. Sadly, the nerve damage was irreversible and the man remains wheelchair-bound.

5 Acupuncture – Pierced Lungs

Acupuncture’s benefits are not uniformly verified by science.[5] Even so, the practice remains a flourishing alternative for those looking for less invasive therapies. The craft is ancient but not flawless. For centuries, practitioners have known that a point called Gallbladder 21 was a tricky one. Incorrect manipulation of this spot could have dangerous consequences for the patient, including pierced lungs. Frighteningly, prospective clients are not always informed about the risks involved.

In 2019, a woman from New Zealand found this out the hard way. The 33-year-old had an arm injury that affected her breathing. The acupuncturist inserted a pair of needles into her Gallbladder 21, which, despite the name, is located in the shoulder region. As the needles went in, the woman experienced pain and became worried because the insertion felt too deep. The pins were left for 30 minutes, rotated and pulled out. Almost immediately, she felt uncomfortable. The woman told the acupuncturist that there was a strange sensation around her lungs. It felt airy and painful. She was told to go home and rest.

That night, her husband took her to the hospital where the woman received emergency care. Doctors diagnosed bilateral apical pneumothoraces. The condition is as scary as it sounds. The needles pierced the top of one lung, which later caused both organs to collapse. Punctured lungs are a common problem in acupuncture. A 2010 study identified Gallbladder 21 as the culprit behind 30 percent of such complications.

4 Vaginal Steaming – Second-Degree Burns

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed vaginal steaming and predictably, it turned into a trend.[6] Said to cleanse the vagina, the technique is simple – just hover over a steaming bowl full of herbs. In 2019, a painful incident proved that celebrities can give really stupid advice. A Canadian woman was recently told she had a vaginal prolapse, a condition where pelvic organs slip out of their normal position. The 62-year-old was hopeful that the steaming remedy might help. Instead, she wound up in the emergency room with second-degree burns on her vaginal membranes and cervix.

The sad part is that the trend is bogus. Scientists found only risks and no benefits. Biologically, the vagina also cleans itself. It does not need to go through a herbal steaming, which incidentally also interferes with beneficial bacteria that safeguards the vagina. The woman’s prolapse was scheduled to be treated surgically but the procedure had to be delayed until she could recover from the burns.

3 Cotton Swabs – Skull-Eating Infection

A woman, identified only as Jasmine, visited a doctor because she could not hear properly.[7] The physician gazed into the offending left ear and declared that she had an infection. Jasmine was prescribed antibiotics but the deafness remained.

In 2019, she cleaned her ears with cotton swabs. This was a daily habit but that night there was blood on the swabs. When the patient visited a specialist, she was given a serious dressing down about her swab habit. The specialist was probably still in shock. A CT scan had shown, in graphic detail, a horrifying skull infection caused by her ear-cleaning regimen. Cotton fibers had been collecting inside her ears for as long as five years and resulted in a bacterial infection. The microorganisms feasted on the bone behind her ear and were literally eating it away. As a result, the skull region was paper-thin.

The 37-year-old underwent a 5-hour operation to remove the corrupted tissue and rebuild her ear canal. Jasmine’s surgery managed to eradicate the infection but the hearing loss in her left ear was permanent.

2 Tooth Gel – Blue Blood

In 2019, a woman entered the emergency room of a Rhode Island hospital.[8] “I’m blue,” she told the doctors. The 25-year-old was not being funny nor did she make a reference to depression. Her skin had a light blue tinge. The staff whipped out a syringe and pulled some blood, which turned out to be dark navy blue.

The diagnosis was methemoglobinemia. This condition occurs when there is a dangerous lack of oxygen in the blood due to an iron abnormality. The patient was already in the danger zone. Serious tissue damage can start when blood oxygen levels reach 70 percent. She was at 67 percent. The treatment was swift and successful. The patient was given a remedy that was aptly named – methylene blue. Two doses later and a night in hospital returned the woman to her pink self.

But what caused the Smurf look? When questioned, the patient said she had a toothache the night before. She applied copious amounts of a numbing medication that contained benzocaine. This freaky customer can influence the iron inside the blood. Benzocaine changes iron so much that the element can no longer bind to oxygen. When this bond severs, blood circulation becomes a problem and blood, skin, and nails turn blue.

1 Face Lotion – Coma

In 2019, a Sacramento woman followed her usual beauty routine.[9] She reached for her favorite face cream, a brand that she had been using twice daily for years. This time something went horribly wrong. Her extremities went numb and she could not walk or talk properly. The 47-year-old was rushed to the emergency ward where she lapsed into a semi-comatose state. At first, she reacted to staff when they spoke to her but eventually the mother of five became unresponsive.

Blood tests identified the culprit. On average, everyone carries 5 micrograms of mercury per liter of blood. The patient had a staggering 2,630 micrograms per liter. Worse, it was methylmercury. Nobody could say with certainty if this dangerous type of mercury’s addition to the cream was accidental or homicidal. Mercury is often the ingredient that makes age and blemish lotions effective.

But this brand was a risky one. Imported from Mexico and sold informally to the public, the woman’s son admitted she loved the anti-wrinkle cream because it outperformed all pharmacy brands. Unfortunately, this the first such poisoning in the United States. Doctors do not have enough experience to say when or if she will ever wake up again.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Jana Louise Smit

Jana earns her beans as a freelance writer and author. She wrote one book on a dare and hundreds of articles. Jana loves hunting down bizarre facts of science, nature and the human mind.

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