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Medical Mysteries, She Wrote

Have you ever wondered why it hurts when you hit your funny bone? Or why your eyes close when you sneeze? WebMD has the answers to these and other perpetually perplexing medical mysteries.

Mysteries, Solved continued...

Why do you lose your sense of taste when your nose is stuffy? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians web site, the flavor of food involves both taste and smell. If your nose is stuffy, you are left to rely on only half of the flavor equation: just your taste buds, and those buds can only differentiate between four or five different molecules, while the nose can distinguish between about 10,000. In short, your nose knows.

Is brain freeze really your brain gone cold? In an editorial in the British Medical Journal, author Joseph Hulihan describes ice cream headache, commonly known as brain freeze, as a pain that begins a few seconds after eating cold foods or beverages, peaks in 30-60 seconds, and is located in the mid frontal area of the brain. Why does it occur? It's been studied as an example of referred pain, or pain that starts in one part of the body, but is felt in another. In the case of brain freeze, the pain originates in the mouth and is referred through the tongue to the brain. The good news is that brain freeze isn't deadly, and no treatment is usually required. In fact, writes Hulihan, "Ice cream abstinence is not indicated."

Why can't you get the Disney ditty "It's a Small World" out of your head? According to a University of Cincinnati news release, marketing professor James J. Kellaris, PhD, explains that this song is a leading earworm -- a tune that gets stuck in your head and won't let go. Earworms are experienced by more than 97% of the population, according to the release, and drive a person crazy from a few hours to over a week.  Why do earworms strike? Overexposure to music can play a role, as can stress, fatigue, or pressure. So relax, and let earworms find someone else to feed on.

Sleep Tight

Now that you know the answers to some of life's medical mysteries, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite.

(One last mystery solved: Bed bugs aren't only the stuff of childhood rhymes: they're real, and they do bite. Think you have bed bugs? They're 1/4 inch long, reddish-brown, and are usually detected by welts and irritations on the skin that aren't there when you go to bed but are when you wake up, according to the University of Kentucky Entomology web site. Solution? Call pest control.)

Reviewed on June 11, 2007

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