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Summer things that make us throw up - (7/7/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Mr. Blake came into the pharmacy to pick up a few items. “Hey, Mr. Blake,” called out the pharmacist. “Tell your son, Brick, congratulations on the hot dog eating contest.” Mr. Blake approached the pharmacist and said, “Yes, he ate 35 hot dogs and their buns in 500 seconds. I would have been happier had he not vomited all over my car on the way home. And he was mighty sick all that evening."

The human stomach has a volume of approximately one quart. But, look around. Some people have stretched theirs to an extreme. Case in point: one Nathan's® Famous hot dog weighs 3.5 ounces. Thus, 35 hot dogs weigh over 7.5 pounds. Don’t forget the buns. If an 8-pack of buns weighs one pound, one bun is 1/8 pound times 35 hot dogs or less than 5 pounds. Therefore, Brick's intake is 12.5 pounds. Someone of Brick’s age (18 years) and weight (225 lbs) burns about 3,000 calories a day. At that rate, it will take him about 3 days to digest that meal. What is the alternative? Vomiting (and perhaps diarrhea)!

The resolution of Brick’s dilemma is mechanical. You can only fill a balloon with so much air before it pops. The same goes for Brick’s stomach. However, other factors can cause nausea and vomiting during the summer months. Take Aunt Betty's delicious potato salad sitting over there on the picnic table in the backyard. Brush away the flies, and it looks very inviting. But, can you brush away the bacteria that cause food poisoning? Bacteria – such as E. coli and Salmonella – are everywhere: in our soil, the air, the water, and our bodies. They flourish in high humidity, and the warm temperatures we wait for all winter. And while you may assume that the mayonnaise is the culprit in food poisoning, know this: commercial mayo is mixed with vinegar which actually retards spoilage. However, two questions arise. Did Aunt Betty add chicken or ham to her salad, and did she make the mayo herself? Bacteria love fresh mayo made right from the chicken coop. Meats are also on the bugs’ hit list. Two scoops of potato salad and a couple of hours later, and you may be puking all over your Uncle Frank's croquet set.

Amusement parks are popular in the summer, especially if you enjoy rides that spin, flip upside down, drop eight stories in 5 seconds, or race at warp speed. Anyone who has ever operated a carnival ride can regale tales of kids regurgitating hot dogs, cotton candy, and soda all over the ride and 6 or 7 neighboring kids. If one wants to endure the abuse of the Tilt-A-Hurl, then you must prepare for the trip. If you are predisposed to motion sickness, snack on a handful of saltines or other bland, high-carb low-fat foods. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks, as well as spicy or acidic foods. Do not pack in a couple pounds of food before hopping on a ride. 

Kids will be kids, but that does not mean they can break laws. Underage drinking is one stunt a kid may pick up during the dog days of summer. The amusing thing about kids is that they do not know their way around a liquor cabinet. So, while they will eschew your “to-kill-for” Napa Valley pinot grigio, they will grab anything blue, pink, or orange, that is, booze loaded with sugar. By and by, you will hear them barfing behind the garage, in total pain, vowing never to do it again. One can punish the kids by doing what the pharmacist's dad did to him years ago: a long dose of yard work, preferably at 8 AM when the hangover is a 7.0 on the Richter scale. As for Brick, he may or may not enter another hot dog eating contest in the future. The pharmacist suggested that perhaps Brick should train for next year's competition. However, Mr. Blake remarked, “He eats like a horse now. I don’t know if I can afford another hot dog eating contest!”

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.  


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