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You Can't Believe Everything You Read


Social media is a great place to learn interesting facts. It’s also a breeding ground for mis-information. That’s why we have compiled a few examples to keep you entertained and informed.


Stepping on a rusty nail will cause tetanus”:

Rust does not cause tetanus. Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium called Clostridium tetani, usually found in soil, dust and manure, which enters the body through breaks in the skin, per the CDC. The rust on the nail, has nothing to do with contracting tetanus. It is the dirt on the nail that is the culprit for contracting tetanus.

Tetanus can only reproduce in an oxygen-deprived setting. A puncture wound, like stepping on a nail, can create a breeding ground for an infection. As stated in a “How Stuff Works” article, “the thinking goes that if the nail has been outside long enough to get rusty, then it’s probably been exposed to soils containing the bacteria”. The rust could be helping the dirt to remain on the nail, “but any injury related to puncture is reason for concern”, no matter how clean or rusty the object is.  


Coconut water can be used as a substitute for blood plasma”:

Unproven accounts have existed for decades that during World War II, British and Japanese troops used coconut water, freshly drained from the inside of a coconut, to administer emergency intravenous treatments to their troops. Adding to the confusion, a 2002 article published in the Sri Lanka Sunday Observer, stated that coconut water “can be injected intravenously in emergency cases such as cholera and dysentery when other pyrogen-free fluids are not available” and that coconut water “can be used as a blood plasma substitute because it is sterile, pyrogen-free and does not produce heat, and does not destroy blood cells”.

In a 2018 interview, George Yaghmour, MD and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine stated “coconut water and plasma are not equal fluids….while coconut water is a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium as an oral hydration source, these same elements are concerning when it comes to intravenous use of coconut water...hypotonic fluids like coconut water could cause cerebral edema, blood hemolysis, worsening kidney failure, heart arrhythmia and many other neurological complications”  

As explained by Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, in his 2014 article, “coconut water is not identical to plasma”. Plasma is the salty water portion of of your blood. It is the clear slightly yellowish liquid that has high levels of sodium, low levels of potassium and trace amounts of other minerals. Coconut water is the exact opposite, containing low sodium and high potassium. Additionally, coconut water has about one fortieth the sodium level of plasma and 10-15 times higher levels of potassium, than plasma. Coconut water also contains calcium and magnesium, which would cause issues if used on patients with kidney failure, severe burns, and other medical conditions sensitive to those elements.


People put sunscreen on their eyes during the solar eclipse

Unfortunately for one individual, this reportedly did happen! During the August 2017 solar eclipse, lots of information was being shared to inform spectators on how best to protect their eyes during the solar eclipse. The majority related to special viewing glasses or not looking directly at the eclipse by making a pinhole or projection device.

In Redding California, Nurse Practitioner, Trish Patterson is quoted as stating “One of my colleagues at moonlight here stated yesterday that they had patients presenting at their clinic that put sunscreen on their eyeball, and presented that they were having pain and they were referred to an ophthalmologist”.

Eclipse watchers were warned in advance of the event, to protect their eyes from harmful sun rays which can cause visual defects, blurriness, dark spots, cloudy vision and possibly a  permanently damaged retina. As stated by NASA, “It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques”. Only eclipse glasses or viewers that are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, will safely allow you to look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun.  


Drinking Visine will cause diarrhea”:

Sorry to ruin all the “pranksters” fun, but putting a few drops of Visine in someone’s drink does not cause diarrhea, but it can be very harmful! The active ingredient in Visine eye drops is Tetrahydrozoline HCI 0.05%. Swallowing this substance can result in a number of nasty effects, including:

  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing or no breathing
  • Blurred vision, change in pupil size
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • Fast or slow heartbeat, changes in blood pressure (high at first, low later)
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Low body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervousness, tremors
  • Seizures
  • Weakness

Additionally, Pfizer (the manufacturer of Visine) cautions users to seek medical help or contact a poison control center right away, if swallowed.

Made popular in the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers, imitating this “prank” has lead to unfortunate injuries and several arrests. Here are a few examples:

  • In June 2014, Samantha Elizabeth Unger was arrested in Thurmont, Maryland. She plead guilty to counts of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of her children. According to police, Unger confessed to poisoning her 3-year-old son by putting Visine in his water bottle and juice bottle (the boy was hospitalized several times but survived) and also causing her 1-year-old son to fall ill when he accidentally consumed the poisoned drinks she had made for his brother.
  • In June 2006, five high school students in Milwaukee poured about a quarter of a bottle of the eye drops into a classmate’s water. The victim spent several days in the hospital recovering from reactions to the poisoning that included a dangerously low heart rate and blood pressure.
  • June 2006, Kristine Anzalone served her roommate, Joseph Gentissi Jr., an iced tea spiked with Visine. Gentissi experienced vomiting and bleeding from his rectum, and Anzalone eventually agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors under which she was ordered to pay $10,000 in hospital bills, serve three years’ probation, and obey an order of protection.
  • In 2012, 56-year-old Byron Shull from Parma Heights, Ohio, spiked the milk of his 84-year-old father with Visine drops “because he thought his dad was mean and wanted to make him pay.” Frank Shull nearly died as a result, spending one month in the hospital and another month in rehab. Byron Shull was sentenced to five years in prison for poisoning his father.
  • In February 2013, a Pennsylvania court sentenced 33-year-old Vickie Jo Mills to two to four years in prison for putting eye drops into her boyfriend’s drinking water 10 to 12 times since June of 2009. His doctor treated him for years for nausea, vomiting, blood pressure problems and breathing trouble before blood tests revealed the presence of tetrahydrozoline in his system. Mills said she wanted her boyfriend to pay more attention to her.
  • In March 2013, a 27-year-old mechanic named Shayne Carpenter was arrested in Grass Valley, California, for putting eye drops in his girlfriend’s drink after an argument with her, causing her to feel ill. The girlfriend later discovered that Carpenter had been texting his friends to boast about the eye drops prank and called the police on him.

The FDA has issued a safety announcement regarding ingestion of over-the-counter eye drops containing Tetrahydrozoline. Out of accidental ingestion cases occurring in children 5 years of age and younger, no deaths have been reported, however “serious events requiring hospitalization such as comma, decreased heart rate, decreased breathing, and sedation (sleepiness) have occurred. Ingestion of only a small amount (1-2 mL: for reference, there are 5 mL in a teaspoon) of the eye drops can lead to serious adverse events in young children”. Tetrahydrozoline, in the eyes, works by narrowing blood vessels to relieve redness due to minor eye irritations. Visine is safe when used in the eyes, but when ingested, it may cause serious and life-threatening adverse events.

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