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August 31, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: What happens to swallowed chewing gum?


Anahad O'Connor, in his August 28, 2007 "Really?" column in the New York Times, explains it all for you.

Short story shorter: Don't worry about it.

Here's the Times piece.

    The Claim: Swallowed Gum Takes a Long Time to Digest

    The Facts: For generations, parents have told their children never to swallow chewing gum, lest it sit undigested for days, weeks or even years.

    This is, for the most part, an old wives’ tale. Swallowed chewing gum typically passes through the digestive tract without harm and is eliminated at the same rate as other foods.

    But rare complications can occur. The medical literature contains several case reports of people, mostly small children, who developed intestinal obstructions because they had a habit of swallowing their gum. A 1998 study in the journal Pediatrics, for example, described three children who came to a clinic with intestinal pain, constipation and other symptoms, and were found to have small masses of chewing gum in their guts. One was a 4-year-old boy who “always swallowed his gum after chewing five to seven pieces each day.” Another was a 4-year-old girl.

    Three other studies, including one in The American Journal of Diseases of Children, describe similar cases. In most, the young patients were fine after removal of the obstructions. The phenomenon is rare, the studies noted. But they might also serve as a cautionary tale for the parents of small children, particularly those with a strong fondness for gum.

    The Bottom Line: Chewing gum is typically digested without harm, though rare complications can occur.


Ah, yes, the photo up top, which accompanied the 1998 article in Pediatrics: its caption reads, "Four coins stuck in gum lodged in esophagus" — of a 1-1/2-year-old girl.

Okay then, after that tidbit, who's in the mood to explore the original literature with me?

Let's start with the abstract of the 1998 paper in Pediatrics cited above.

    Chewing Gum Bezoars of the Gastrointestinal Tract

    Children have chewed gum since the Stone Age. Black lumps of prehistoric tar with human tooth impressions have been found in Northern Europe dating from ~7000 BC (Middle Stone Age) to 2000 BC (Bronze Age). The bite impressions suggest that most chewers were between 6 and 15 years of age. The Greeks chewed resin from the mastic tree (mastic gum). North American Indians chewed spruce gum. The first manufacturing patent for chewing gum was issued in 1869 for a natural gum, chicle, derived from the Sopadilla tree, indigenous to Central America. Chewing gum sold today is a mixture of natural and synthetic gums and resins, with added color and flavor sweetened with corn syrup and sugar. Chewing gum is big business. A significant amount of the $21 billion US candy industry sales is from chewing gums, many of which appeal almost exclusively to children. Despite the history and prevalence of gum chewing, the medical literature contains very little information about the adverse effects of chewing gum. In the present report, we briefly review gum-chewing complications and describe three children who developed intestinal tract and esophageal obstruction as a consequence of swallowing gum.


Isn't "bezoar" a great word?

I've loved it since I first happened on it in pathology in my second year of medical school.

Great back story, too.

There are many types of bezoars, for example:





Reminds me of all the great shrimp dishes Forrest Gump's buddy Bubba fantasized about.

But I digress.

Here's a link to the entire Pediatrics article abstracted above, for those who simply can't stop chewing on this topic.

August 31, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Book Sox Hot Sox — 'Stretchy book cover changes color when you touch it'


Where were these when I needed them?

Slurpee (above) or Grape Juice (below):



August 31, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

MyRoomBud.com — 'Costumes for your Roomba'


Res ipsa loquitur.


But in case your Latin's a little rusty or you had a bad night, know this: you can now dress up your Roomba in just the outfit to match your decor.


Because everyone knows a naked Roomba is no Roomba at all.


Inquire within.

August 31, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dedon Obelisk Transformer Outdoor Furniture


Made of synthetic woven fiber,


it deconstructs to a side table and four chairs.


August 31, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Meet the parent


Res ipsa loquitur.

But in case it's too early for you to process that, know that the graphic above appears in today's New York Times as a full-page ad for today's world premiere of "Lucy's Legacy" at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

August 31, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SlouchPod — 'World's most comprehensive gaming chair'


Only a Brit would describe a gaming chair as "comprehensive" and in fact one just did — Jonathan Margolis in today's Financial Times review of this new Xbox/PlayStation/Wii accessory, which reads as follows:


The predominantly British-made SlouchPod is the most comprehensive gaming chair to date — a beanbag in fuchsia [below] or five other colours with speakers either side of your head and a subwoofer strategically sited at the small of your back.


It hooks up to any console, laptop or MP3 player and makes a great deal of noise and vibration, just like it oughta.

The bass will wobble your very gizzards.

Be certain of one thing: you won't find "gizzards" in reviews by Mossberg or Pogue.

But I digress.


Your very own SlouchPod Interactive XT can be yours for a cool Britannia £299.

August 31, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Got Arachnophobia? Giant Spider Web Engulfs Lake Tawakoni State Park in Texas


Not a nightmare but right here, right now, in broad daylight.

Long story short: A vast web crawling with millions of spiders and untold numbers of dead and dying insects entwined in its silk (above) now covers several acres of the park, thick enough in places to block out the sun.

Here's Gretel C. Kovach's article from today's New York Times.

    Got Arachnophobia? Here’s Your Worst Nightmare

    Most spiders are solitary creatures. So the discovery of a vast web crawling with millions of spiders that is spreading across several acres of a North Texas park is causing a stir among scientists, and park visitors.

    Sheets of web have encased several mature oak trees and are thick enough in places to block out the sun along a nature trail at Lake Tawakoni State Park, near this town about 50 miles east of Dallas.

    The gossamer strands, slowly overtaking a lakefront peninsula, emit a fetid odor, perhaps from the dead insects entwined in the silk. The web whines with the sound of countless mosquitoes and flies trapped in its folds.

    Allen Dean, a spider expert at Texas A&M University, has seen a lot of webs, but even he described this one as “rather spooky, kind of like Halloween.”

    Mr. Dean and several other scientists said they had never seen a web of this size outside of the tropics, where the relatively few species of “social” spiders that build communal webs are most active.

    Norman Horner, emeritus professor of biology at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Tex., was one of a number of spider experts to whom a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist sent online photos of the web. “It is amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Dr. Horner, who at first thought it an e-mail hoax.

    The web may be a combined effort of social cobweb spiders. But their large communal webs generally take years to build, experts say, and this web was formed in just a few months.

    Or it could be a striking example of what is known as ballooning, in which lightweight spiders throw out silk filaments to ride the air currents. Five years ago, in just that way, a mass dispersal of millions of tiny spiders covered 60 acres of clover field in British Columbia with thick webbing.

    Mike Quinn, the state biologist who distributed the online photos, and who runs a Web site about Texas invertebrates, plans to drive to the park from Central Texas on Friday in an effort to get some answers by collecting samples.

    Record-breaking rains that flooded Texas earlier this summer inspired outbreaks of crickets and “webworms,” the caterpillar larvae of the white moth. Mr. Quinn said the rains might have something to do with the web, too.

    “You’d have to get a lot of spiders together and feed them a whole lot of food to make a web that big,” he said.

    Whatever caused the vast web, the sight of it has inspired both awe and revulsion.

    “It’s beautiful,” said the park’s superintendent, Donna Garde.

    Freddie Gowin disagrees. It was Mr. Gowin, a maintenance worker at the park, who discovered the web this month when, taking advantage of some of the first dry weather, he mowed the area around the nature trail.

    “I don’t think there’s anything pretty about it,” he said, though “it’s certainly unusual.”

    When Mr. Gowin drives the power mower through the area, webbing wraps across his bare face, causing him to slap at spiders, real or imagined, crawling on his skin.

    The park’s staff says that while the web has killed some leaves, it should not hurt the trees.

    The spiders are “spreading out for sure,” Mr. Gowin said, pointing out cedars that appeared to have a dusting of snow. “They’re going to take over this whole point.”

    The staff expects the web to last until colder weather this fall, when the spiders begin dying off.

    For now the concern is to defend this marvel from teenagers who might take a stick and knock it all down, or little boys wanting to push their little sisters into it.

    “We’ll try to protect it, with what little staff we have,” said Ms. Garde, the superintendent. “I’ll use the web-of-life analogy. If you break one part of the web, it affects us all.”

August 31, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Batmobile Conversion Kit


Instantly transform your boring wheels into a tricked-out Batmobile mashup.

From the website:

    Batmobile Conversion Kit

    At the first sign of trouble, your trusty minivan or efficient sedan converts into the Batmobile.

    Weather-resistant 15"-high wings easily clip onto windows.

    10"-diameter nose has wire twists for holding it fast.


August 31, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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