Conditions

Stop Nosebleeds With Pork Strips? 'Improbable' Remedy For People With Glanzmann Thrombasthenia

nosebleed
Scientists discovered a whacky remedy for severe nosebleeds caused by a condition known as Glanzmann thrombasthenia — stuffing nostrils with pork strips worked quite well. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Believe it or not, there are legitimate Nobel prizes out there for scientists who make bizarre and seemingly silly — but important — discoveries. They’re called Ig Nobel Prizes, and this year’s winners studied a wide array of fun topics from reindeers to the slippery-ness of banana peels.

The Ig Nobel Prizes are also known for pointing out there is sometimes truth in old wives’ tales and folk remedies. For example, instead of stuffing your nose with tampons to stop a nosebleed, Ig Nobel prize winners studied the use of pork strips, which proved to be an effective remedy for a brutal, life-threatening hemorrhaging disorder called Glanzmann thrombasthenia. Patients who have the disorder suffer from improper blood clotting, and often experience heavy nosebleeds.

“We had to do some out-of-the-box thinking,” Dr. Sonal Saraiya and her team from Detroit Medical Center, who completed the study, said. “So that’s where we put our heads together and thought to the olden days and what they used to do.”

In the study, they packed a 4-year-old’s nostrils with cured pork twice, and found that “the nasal vaults successfully stopped nasal hemorrhage promptly (and) effectively.” The authors discovered that pork contains clotting factors as well as a lot of salt, which pulled a lot of fluid from the nose. They continued: “To our knowledge, this represents the first description of nasal packing with strips of cured pork for treatment of life-threatening hemorrhage in a patient with Glanzmann thrombasthenia.” But the researchers don’t think an ordinary nosebleed should be treated with pork strips; it could cause an infection, so the bizarre treatment should be reserved for people with Glanzmann thrombasthenia.

Other studies that won prizes included research that examined people’s reactions to seeing faces in pieces of toast, whether owning a cat had a negative effect on mental health, and whether banana skins were truly dangerous to step on, as cartoons often depict them to be. The rest of the studies can be found on the Ig Nobel website.

“The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then makes them think,” Improbable Research writes on its website. “The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.” The awards ceremony takes place at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, where prizes “are physically handed out [to the winners] by genuinely bemused genuine Nobel Laureates,” the website continues.

As biochemistry professor and science fiction author Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but, ‘That’s funny…'”

Source: Humphreys I, Saraiya S, Belenky W, Dworkin J. “Nasal packing with strips of cured pork as treatment for uncontrollable epistaxis in a patient with Glanzmann thrombasthenia.” Annals of Otology, 2014.

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