The World of Health Legends - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/23/03

The World of Health Legends

Folklore and legends have been around for centuries. In the past they were passed from one to another or on to small groups. Now, in just 'nanoseconds,' rumors and hoaxes can be spread around the world. The way we communicate has changed but not the message.

Scary messages about health have always been a target of the rumor mill. Their popularity is due in large part because we feel vulnerable. Most of these tales are false or contain only a trace of truth. A few, however, it turns out, are true.

A search of the internet has not turned up any new and startling stories. One true story concerns the "explosion" of superheated water after a cup was heated in the microwave. This has happened and the rush of boiling water has scalded a few and there is a good scientific explanation.

Water in a cup in the microwave is heated by the agitation of molecules not direct heat. The liquid heats above the boiling point but not produce steam because as in a kettle. When the cup is moved or something like a tea bag is put into the water, it suddenly boils and steam bursts from the cup. This could cause serious burns.

It can happen, but does it happen often? Happily it appears to be a rare occurrence. More often, we forget that something that has been microwaved is much hotter than its container. That is where the greater danger lies.

Another true story you may find in the legend literature is about Padgett's disease, a rare form of breast cancer. The article that was e-mailed around the globe was quite accurate. The life of a friend of mine was saved by the e-mail. She recognized that she had the symptoms described. After treatment, she is alive and well four years later. But this one example does not excuse all the other lies and hoaxes that circulate with lightening speed around the world.

How do you know what to believe? First of all, like those bizarre headlines in the super market tabloids, if the story is too weird, it probably is false. Check it out. Go to one of the reliable sites such as the Mayo Clinic or another university site and read about it. Go to Medline +, a service of the National Library of Medicine or ask a question of the former Chair of Medicine at Tech, Dr. He says that he will answer your question at his educational web site.

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