Dr Phil Ham­mond’s guide to liv­ing longer

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - BODY MIND -

If some­one swal­lows a Lego head over Christ­mas, is it likely to get stuck or… pass through? We have an an­swer, thanks to Anglo-Aus­tralian re­searchers who did it them­selves.

Self-ex­per­i­men­ta­tion has a noble tra­di­tion in medicine. Aus­tralian doc­tor Barry Mar­shall won a No­bel Prize af­ter test­ing his the­ory that the bac­te­ria Heli­cobac­ter py­lori caused stom­ach ul­cers by swal­low­ing a heavy sus­pen­sion of the bug scraped straight off the agar plate. “It was like pu­trid swamp wa­ter…”

He awoke at 3am with ter­ri­ble stom­ach cramps and em­barked on a lengthy af­fair with his lava­tory. On day eight, he could no longer taste acid­ity in his vomit: “It looked just like wa­ter, but I hadn’t been drink­ing any­thing, so it was quite puz­zling.” He later re­alised that the bac­te­ria had stripped his gas­tric juices of their pro­tec­tive acids.

Af­ter 10 days of suf­fer­ing, he had a cel­e­bra­tory en­doscopy. Hur­rah! He had the early signs of a stom­ach ul­cer.

In the lat­est self-ex­per­i­ment, the Lego heads passed pain­lessly through the adult vol­un­teers, with an av­er­age tran­sit time of 1.7 days. The re­searchers were con­fi­dent child guts would be­have sim­i­larly, so par­ents can be re­as­sured, at least re­gard­ing smooth ob­jects. How­ever, chok­ing is a much greater risk for chil­dren, and a Lego head lodged in the tra­chea or bronchus is an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

So don’t sit idly by as your kids feed each other Lego. It may end up in the wrong tube.

Dr Phil Ham­mond is the au­thor of Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? and Stay­ing Alive: How to Get the Best from the NHS

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