While shark attacks, sinkholes, plane crashes, and other “Act of God” insurance nightmares get all the glory of media coverage, there are plenty of other events that account for at least as much—if not more—a share of injuries and deaths. They may not be glamorous or worthy of silver screen treatment, but as causes of hospitalization (and sometimes mortality), the numbers these health threats put up annually certainly qualify them for at least a second thought. So read on and learn about the top ways people wind up in the ER or the morgue, that somehow never get their moment in the spotlight.
Sadly, zombie enthusiasts watching the news for advanced signs of an impending apocalypse are mistaken if they think human-on-human biting attacks are prime suspects. Even without the involvement of undead hordes, American hospitals record more than 40,000 ER admissions for victims of human bites every year.
A UK study of the phenomenon estimated that one person goes to the emergency department every three days to treat bite wounds inflicted by another person; other studies estimate that a person bites another person once every twelve minutes.
While it may be easy to write off this statistic as a subset of assault victims requiring hospitalization, keep in mind that most—but far from all—bites result from a fight. The rest (of those that are actually reported and recorded) occur from other such zesty activities as athletics or intercourse. Not all such incidents get reported, but when the bounty of bacteria and general nastiness of the human mouth results in infection, it is harder to hide the fact that someone got a little too toothy during any activity.
9. Cute Animals
Some strange combination of Saturday morning cartoons and Beanie Babies has given people a false sense of security when dealing with seemingly cute animals. Man’s Best Friend alone manages to send up to 13,000 puppy-lovers to the hospital annually.
Of course, humans have a tragically long track record of mistaking “adorable” with “harmless” when it comes to the animal kingdom. Hippos, bison, and other such lovable lugs are so darned endearing, that thousands of human idiots manage to push them to the point of violence every year, with hippos killing more people than sharks, spiders, snakes, wolves, and jellyfish combined.
National Parks like Yellowstone are particularly prone to incidents involving visitors who think all they need to know about wild animals is the difference between herbivores and carnivores, and then proceed to get maimed while trying to take selfies with the resident bison. And it wouldn’t be a true American Thanksgiving without a parade of Elmer Fudd wannabes becoming prey to wild turkeys.
Fact is, people are no better at living with other species than they are at getting along with other humans.
People have come up with a variety of novel uses for vacuums, with the natural result that they’ve found a host of ways to hurt or kill themselves using the appliance. There is, of course, the regrettable trend of curious young men who, absent any prominent social messaging warning them of the perils of amorous relations with cleaning appliances, “were driven to new lengths by the novelty of the experience and came to grief”, to quote a foundational study on the subject.
But the travails of vacuums are not limited to or even dominated by hapless males; in both traditional deliveries and C-sections, vacuums have replaced forceps as the tool of choice in assisting in the delivery of infants, which has been shown to frequently cause serious damage to the newborn’s intracranial tissue. That officially makes vacuums a bigger threat than zombies where brains are concerned.
Human bodies were designed to squat during defecation, yet the pretense of dumping out in a “civilized” manner led to the development of toilets requiring an upright posture. This increased dignity is accompanied by straining, increased rates of fissures, incomplete evacuation (resulting in buildup of residual waste and bacteria), elevated risks of chronic inflammation and internal bleeding, and possibly even colon cancer.
Take that, third-world residents who have no alternative to squatting!
Nations of the world who invested in a more regal platform for bowel movements got a lot more than a porcelain throne as a result: hemorrhoids afflict fully half of all Americans by the time they hit 50, and the added time and labor involved in forcing the dookie out when your posture is holding it in increases the amount of pressure and time required (hence the popularity of reading on the toilet), further compounding the health hazards all over again.
It is common knowledge that sitting at a desk all day is bad for your health. But while the hazards of prolonged sitting have attracted all manner of attention and helpful tips, people somehow remain much more receptive to doing office calisthenics and investing in standing desks than in renovating their bathrooms to incorporate squat toilets.
It isn’t just our desks that are wrecking our bodies. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), unintentional overexertion, otherwise known as working too damn hard, is the third leading cause of injury in the United States. Among those aged 24-65, i.e., the standard working age, it is the second most common cause for non-fatal hospitalization.
Far from being a problem associated with highly physical jobs like construction or Jimmy John’s delivery, traumatic overexertion can be brought on by repetitive motions common to desk jobs, as well as the odd incident of trying to lift too much, or simply failing to drink enough water.
And before we applaud ourselves for simply being martyred workaholics, bear in mind that hobbyists like gardeners and marathon runners are also incapable of recognizing their own limits. So while hospitals overflow with patients who don’t get enough exercise, the sedentary can plan on sharing a room with fitness freaks who just don’t know when to quit. That ought to be a fun stay for everyone.
5. The Million-Dollar Fart
People routinely turn up at the hospital convinced that an alien is about to burst from their chests, only to discover that the foreign body they are hosting is actually just a cloud of hydrogen tinged with sulfur making its way down and out.
Abdominal pain (the detested tummy ache) accounts for eight million ER admissions per year—the leading cause of hospitalization in America. That is due in part to the huge variety of things that can go wrong in the human abdomen, but it also includes less-than-deadly complaints like gas. Of the eight million admissions, only about 17% turn out to be serious—a conclusion only reached after ordering anything from an ultrasound or CT scan to exploratory surgery, all elements of the standard regimen that could quickly turn one person’s *poot* into a seriously expensive punchline, not to mention how all the diagnostic imaging typically increases cumulative exposure to radiation, potentially leading to further health issues down the line.
But that isn’t the only way people have found to emit million-dollar farts.
Pyroflatulence, better known as the elusive-but-spectacular “blue dart”, has delighted and destroyed in equal measure. While it is impossible to burn inside-out from igniting one’s own gaseous emissions, doing so in proximity to other flammable substances is, predictably, explosive, and can compound the cost (financial and personal) of a single fart by orders of magnitude.
This documented phenomenon is known as the July Effect: when all the baby-docs get to swap their med school scrubs for white coats and stethoscopes, hospitals are temporarily at higher risk of the sort of silly slip-ups and hijinks that made Scrubs such a beloved sitcom—as well as making hospitals the third leading killer of Americans each year.
The coincidence of med school graduations in the month has been directly linked to a 10% spike in hospital errors, involving everything from mixing up medications to not knowing how to work a defibrillator. Experts agree that if at all possible, it is best to avoid hospitals throughout the summer and try to aim for a time when the ER is more likely to be staffed with more experienced doctors.
Of course, if you are planning on celebrating Independence Day at all, you stand a pretty high chance of failing to follow that advice…
Major holidays are a bit of a triple threat for hospitals. Firstly, surveys have shown that nearly 1 in 5 holiday travelers hit the road to avoid family, rather than to visit them; meanwhile, impatient travelers will exaggerate or even fabricate symptoms in order to get select (elderly) family members hospitalized for non-critical conditions, if only to ensure travel and other holiday plans have one less obstacle to going smoothly.
On the other hand, lonely seniors without company during the most wonderful time of the year will check themselves into hospitals just to have company.
And finally, of course, there are the perils of drinking. Responsible revelers who drink at home, thoughtfully staying off the roads, often end up trading a traffic accident for a domestic one. So while DUIs are to Christmas what candy is to Halloween, celebratory day-drinking still manages to net more than 15,000 holiday decorators, along with over a thousand burn victims, and 1,500 cases of back strain (or lifting injuries)—all without so much as a car leaving the driveway. Even on July 4th, America’s pyrotechnics are no match for its thirst for alcohol as a root cause of ER admissions and injury.
2. Removing Hair… Down There
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to stop grooming your naughty bits.
From lasers to razors, eliminating all the hair of the swimsuit places has gone from being a fad to fully in the mainstream. The shave-and-wax trend over the period from 2002 – 2010 produced just over 11,000 ER visits, but by the end of 2010 the annual rate had climbed over 2,500. Disturbingly, the overwhelming cause of serious injury involves the use of razors, but other hair removal techniques including waxing have also been implicated.
And while injuries during the baldening process are alarming, experts point out that removing pubic hair also eliminates an important biological defense to disease and infection, leaving bare nether-regions prone to staph infections, STIs, and even run of the mill blunt force trauma. Though this trend is exponentially on the rise, it is only one of the ways we truly suffer for beauty…
It is time to admit that our clothes are killing us. From high-heeled shoes to too-tight… well, everything, modern wardrobes are little more than glorified murder chambers we carry with and on us. The desperate squeezing-in ritual that accompanies so many daily clothing routines the world over has been responsible for blood clots, chronic pain, nerve damage, and disfigurement.
And that laundry list of physical health problems doesn’t even consider the countless psychological side-effects of having a culture that celebrates sartorial masochism, making it effectively impossible for anyone to meet the standards of beauty and shape without compromising health and comfort. So even those who forego “fitting in” through skin-tight apparel often adorn an underlying depression with looser, more forgiving outfits.
The compounding effect of the one size fits none standardization as the most horrible fixture of contemporary fashion is hard to track, but experts attribute much of the staggering rate of suicides and cases of self-harm requiring hospitalization, in part, to a void of self-esteem. And while many high-performing ancient cultures (and pragmatic modern ones) manage to embrace functional, practical, gender-neutral garb, the pinnacles of high fashion insist on preserving monstrous mutations of gendered apparel. Almost daily accusations of misogyny, hyper-sexualization, perpetuation of rape culture, and a generally regressive view of identity all point back to the fashion and beauty industry.
Directly and indirectly, health and beauty have become opposing forces.