We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale about how you can catch a cold from getting your feet wet. But you might not know that flu shots have a tracking device in them so the government can monitor your whereabouts, or that having your tonsils removed will make you sterile. These are just some of the wacky ideas that nurses hear from their patients. Here are the funniest, oddest and most troubling pieces of faux medical advice our readers shared with us.
Cures from the Kitchen
Chicken soup may be good for keeping you hydrated when you have a cold, but these other culinary remedies are a lot more sketchy:
- Put potatoes on your head to reduce a fever, or roll an egg on your body and it will hard-boil by removing the heat of the fever.
- Put raw egg or raw bacon on a boil or wound to draw the infection out (you’ll never look at breakfast food the same way again!).
- Pickle juice prevents muscle spasms.
- Place cut-up onions around your house when you have strep throat and they’ll draw the infection out of you.
While the fake treatments above are just silly, some faux medical advice can be downright scary and harmful. For example, some patients report eating a clove of garlic every day for hypertension or using marshmallow enemas and drinking urine to cure liver cancer in lieu of taking their prescribed medications.
Feeling “Positive” Today?
Those pesky drug screens can show up with awkward results through no fault of your own! Just ask patients who claim the following:
- Taking Tylenol 3 will make you test positive for cocaine.
- Taking OTC Aleve will make you test positive in a UA screen for opiates.
- You can test positive for cocaine by being around friends who are doing it. (Let that be a warning about the dangers of “secondhand coke”!)
Thanks, But We’d Rather Not
Some remedies are so unpleasant that they seem worse than the ailment they’re supposed to prevent or cure:
- “One patient told me if you pee on your finger once a year and put your finger in your ear, you won’t get an ear infection.” —Lauriel Finch
- “Boric acid eye wash for conjunctivitis.” —Kelli Jo Parrish-Hanifan
- “I’ve heard of putting a slice of Irish potato in your shoe for gout. The potato is supposed to ‘draw out the poison’ and you can see it at the end of the day. Personally, I think if I walked around with something in my shoe all day, it would have to feel better once I took my shoe off.” —Dusti Smith McLain
- “A relative of mine from another country told me if you tie your dirty socks around your neck, it will cure your sore throat.” —Jessica Frederick Englehardt
Linda Darkhand shares one you may have heard before. “My former brother-in-law thought he had pubic crabs. His mother told him to get a razor, a lighter and an ice pick. Shave off half the pubic hair. Light the other half on fire. As the crabs run out, get them with the ice pick. I still laugh at that some 30 years later. (And no, he didn’t do it….)”
We Wish These Were True
- If your appendix is taken out, it will grow back.
- WD-40 works on knee arthritis.
- Tylenol and ibuprofen together make Darvocet.
- Tying a knot in the end of a patient’s bed sheet keeps the Grim Reaper away.
We don’t know what it is about toast, but apparently beliefs about it abound! Amanda Terry Handy, a health educator RN, says one patient thought toasting bread made it whole grain because it turned brown. Aileen Nippins Kammer had a diabetes patient tell her that toast is carb-free because heat changes the fibers so they don’t have carbs anymore. If only!
This is probably the funniest category—mostly because it actually seems to do the patients some good. Is it ethical to make stuff up to keep patients happy? Is it okay to tell a fib to check out a patient’s reaction? We’ll let you decide.
Jody Robertson Bulloch gives props to one doctor who came up with an inventive way to test a patient for fake seizures. “He convinced the patient he could bring on the seizure and also stop it by synchronizing her brain waves with a tuning fork! I certainly didn’t expect that. It was all I could do to keep a straight face.”
Sometimes, you may be tempted to stretch the truth to calm an ultra-demanding patient who wants everything right now. ER nurse Casey Lewis-Bryant tells this story: “I once had a patient ask me why the lights would get dim and then brighten every so many minutes while she waited for the ER physician to come in. My response: ‘It’s this new thing we’re trying called phototherapy. While you wait to see the doctor, the lights get dim and then brighten. Studies show this helps patients recover faster.’ Her response: ‘Well, good, I’m glad something’s making me better while I wait!’”