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May 19, 2017

Weekend reads: The right way to treat a jellyfish sting

Daily Briefing

    The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

    Ben Palmer's reads

    What would happen if you ate nothing but potatoes? Mark Watney, the fictional protagonist of the book and movie The Martian, survived on nothing but potatoes for quite some time—but in the real world, the strategy is at best a short-term solution, according to Vasanti Malik, a research scientist at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Potatoes could provide sufficient calories over the long term, Malik says, but the starchy vegetables lack vitamins A, D, E, and K, and that nutritional deficient could lead to poor night vision, risk of blindness, aching, weak bones, chronic fatigue, excessive bruising, and weakness. So would you survive? It would be possible if you, like the fictional Watney, took vitamin supplements, Malik says—but it would be "very boring."

    How to fix a jellyfish sting. The general wisdom behind easing jellyfish stings has been to urinate on the affected area, but at best, that will simply move the stinging tentacles around, says Christine Wilcox, a venom scientist at the University of Hawaii. However, new research has shown that there are other, more effective ways to ease the pain. Wilcox recommends a three-step treatment: First, use vinegar to rinse the tentacles and counteract the stinging cells. Then, use tweezers to remove the tentacles—working carefully to avoid scraping or rubbing them, which could trigger the release of more venom. Finally, apply heat, which permanently inactivates the venom.

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    A snail's matching bid turns tragic: What began as research into snail genetics has turned into an unfortunate "love triangle" for a snail named Jeremy, who has a rare genetic condition that makes his shell coil to the left and nearly impossible to find a mate, Merritt Kennedy writes for NPR's "The Two Way." Researchers last year set out to find a suitor for Jeremy, but the only two potential mates mated with each other, instead—snails are simultaneous hermaphrodites. According to the researchers, the underlying study is trying to assess whether the snails' rare condition appears in offspring when two snails with that condition mate. According a paper from the research team, the gene that causes the snails' shell to coil counterclockwise might also "offer clues to how the same gene affects body asymmetry in other animals including humans."

    Here's why you're stressing out about that secret you're keeping even though no one's ever asked you about it: The hardest part about keeping a secret is not having to actively hide it from others—it's how often you have to think about the secret, according to new research. According to the researchers, the defining feature of a secret is the intent to keep the information concealed, rather than actively hiding it. In several studies by the new paper's lead author, Michael Slepian, a professor of management at Columbia Business School, participants reported that they spent more time thinking about their secrets than actively concealing them. Slepian said, "The good news is, if what's most harmful is your thinking about the secret, if we could get you to think about it less, or change how you think about it, we could mitigate that negative effect."


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