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Use and abuse of common household products and home remedies

Use and abuse of common household products and home remedies

Cautionary tales from among the 15,000-strong library of submitted cases

Now that BMJ Case Reports has reached a grand total of 15,000 submissions, certain cautionary themes continue to crop up among the wide variety of instructive and educational narratives–from the hazards of misusing common household products to the consequences of unwittingly swallowing everyday items…

Household goods
A man developed severe liver injury after taking excessive amounts of the multipurpose home remedy Epsom salts to dissolve his gallstones, on the advice of a naturopath, while another overdosed on the indigestion remedy Milk of Magnesia in a bid to relieve his constipation

And mistaking a bottle of nail glue for eye drops damaged the surface of one 64 year-old’s eye

Food and drink
A woman with the blood cancer myeloma successfully turned to a daily dose of the spice turmeric to stabilise her condition

But another woman was not so fortunate: she developed high blood pressure after drinking up to six cups a day of liquorice tea as a substitute for the caffeinated variety

And a man seemed to prove the maxim ‘everything in moderation’ when he developed acute hepatitis after knocking back four to five energy drinks every day for three weeks in a bid to help him get through his exhausting work schedule

Food is the most common cause of the severe allergic reaction anaphylaxis, exemplified by one man’s response to his own home-cooked meal containing mustard seeds

Complementary therapies
But attempts to eat less led one woman to develop thyroid problems after following a commercial ‘natural ingredients’ diet, high in iodine

And certain Ayurvedic remedies have proved hazardous when enthusiasts variously attempted a new year detox, or tried out remedies for low back pain and the skin condition vitiligo

Toys can bring pain as well as pleasure, as three people discovered when they were hit with darts from a Nerf gun, causing serious eye injuries

Another source of potential eye trauma are button batteries, which can also prove problematic when swallowed

Foreign bodies
But toothpicks seem to be the most commonly reported item to be swallowed unintentionally, causing not only severe pain, but perforated bowel

…And liver abscess, to say nothing of severe internal bleeding

Other items swallowed by accident include a hair grip (bobby pin) and a bird feather

Bones and teeth

Swallowing fish and chicken bones can be hazardous, as the following cases show

And accidentally swallowing dentures is perhaps not as rare as people might think. But in the following case, it took four weeks before doctors realised what had happened

Finally, one 10- year old’s habit of chewing on her pencil resulted in the lead becoming embedded inside her tooth

Nevertheless, appearances can be deceptive: swallowed ‘foreign bodies’ can mimick all manner of conditions, from inflammation of the gallbladder to inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerated eye, and even lung cancer


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