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Wed, Sep. 14th, 2005, 12:39 am
WARNING: CHILDREN MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!

It's time for Alarming Medical News Items, the popular feature that can strike at any time without warning symptoms. For your protection, this column undergoes a rigorous fact-checking procedure under which, before I will print an item, it must first be read over by a person who says they know stuff, and a pack of wild baboons. Don't bother to thank me: I’m not listening.

Speaking of which, my first alarming item concerns the recently discovered:

Ear Problem From Hell

I learned about this thanks to alert reader Jacques Huître-Coquille, who sent in an American Medical Association newsletter containing an article about a North Carolina man who went to his doctor complaining of a “full sensation” in one ear, accompanied by a hearing loss. The doctor checked it out, and found that the man's ear canal was blocked by – I am not making this up -- a plug of hardened Super Glue.

Now, some of you are wondering, “How does a grown person get Super Glue in his EAR and not know it?” My first thought was “He is from North Carolina is he not? That should explain it all!” But you parents are no doubt nodding and saying: “It would not surprise me to learn that this man has a 3-year-old son.”

And, of course, you're right. According to the AMA newsletter, the son “squirted the glue into his father's left ear while the man was sleeping.”

Surgeons unclogged his ear, but as medical consumers we can prevent this kind of near-tragedy by remembering to:

1. Never keep 3-year-olds around the house.

2. If you do, never sleep.

Also: You older children should remember that Super Glue is a serious household repair substance and NOT a toy to be used in such pranks as applying it to the toilet seats in the Faculty Men's Room, taking care to first prepare the surface by wiping it clean of oil and dirt.

My next item was brought to my attention by Dieter Dummer Affe, who alerted me to an article in the British medical journal The Lancet with the following title:

Exploding head syndrome.

Quite frankly, this syndrome disappointed me. I had naturally assumed, from the title, that it would involve the actual explosion of a person's head, ideally Justin Timberlake‘s during a concert. But it turns out to be just this weenie syndrome where you wake up in the middle of the night having “a violent sensation of explosion in the head.” Big freakin deal. I get that all the time, but you don't see me whining to The Lancet. You see me making a mental note to drink tequila from smaller containers next.

But not right now. Right now I want to tell you about the exciting new:

Advances in BO Measurement

I found out about this through alert reader Jose Persona No Verdadero, who sent me an article from the Journal of the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers written by a man named – I’m not making this up -- “P. Ole Fanger.” Mr. Fanger, from Denmark, has done a LOT of research in the field of measuring exactly how much a given human tends to stink up a given room, and he has come up with a unit of air pollution called the “olf” (“from the Latin olfactus, or olfactory sense”). To quote the article: “One olf is the emission rate of air pollutants (bioeffluents) from a standard person (Figure 1).”

I sincerely wish that I could show you Figure 1, which is a truly wonderful drawing of a standard person with dozens of little Smell Arrows shooting out of his body. Looking at this drawing reminded me of one of the highlights of my life, which is the time that I was with two friends, Steve and Pierre, in a bar that was empty except for two women at the far end, and Pierre, after maybe 17 Miller High Lifes, decided to make a move, which was pretty funny because Pierre, even on those occasions when he has total control over his hairpiece, is not exactly Orlando Bloom, or even Mr. Ed.

But he went lunging over there, and, with all the subtlety of Hurricane Ivan, attempted to strike up a conversation, which the two women were clearly not interested in. So they were quiet, and after a while Pierre got quiet, and we were listening quietly, so the whole bar was very quiet when Pierre had an unfortunate bodily event. It's the kind of event that can happen to anybody, except maybe Queen Elizabeth, but it rarely happens with the magnitude that it happened to Pierre. Talk about Hurricane Ivan! Of course, in those days we did not have modern measurement techniques, but I can almost guarantee you that this event was completely off the scale on the Olf Meter. I’m only sorry that I didn't get to see the two women sprint from the bar, because I was too busy rolling around on the floor laughing so hard that I thought I was going to suffer a heart attack, which , by the way, every American should know the Six Warning Signs of.

Today's medical tip: Never undergo any kind of major surgery without first making an appointment.