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Why does the sound of water make you pee? - (1/19/2021)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Pharmacists get asked many crazy questions during any given day. Why not? They are standing right out in the open, dreamily counting tablets and capsules, oblivious to the machinations of everyday life. “Hey, Doc,” yelled Jimbo. “How come every time I go to the kitchen sink, I have to make a beeline to the john instead? The wife says it’s because I don’t want to wash the dishes.” The pharmacist snapped back to life to answer his question.

Not surprisingly, no clinical study has ever been performed to determine whether the sound of water makes one want to urinate. There's simply no money in it. How would Big Pharma sell that info? Nevertheless, plenty of theories exist. Example: When the Neanderthals roamed the planet, they took care not to be eaten by dinosaurs. Hence, hiding was an essential pastime. One way our ancestors protected themselves from predators was to mask the odor of their urine. This was done by micturating into rivers, lakes, and under pouring rain, thus diluting the pungent pee. As the millennia advanced, the riskiness of urination was lessened. Yet the unconscious association between emptying one's bladder and running water kept up with the evolutionary process. This does not explain why the stench of solid human waste was not swept under the antediluvian rug. But it's just the Number One theory.

Here comes William, who seems to have plenty of time on his hands to stand around and offer his brand of BS. "Say, Doc," William interrupted, "Why do people sneeze when they look at the sun?" The word photo means “light,” while reflex means “reaction.” Thus, the photic sneeze reflex - scientifically known as Autosomal-Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst (ACHOO) syndrome – is an involuntary condition that causes a sneeze in response to stimuli, such as looking at the sun or any strong light.  ACHOO affects 1 in 3 people and its exact mechanism of action is not understood. We do know the reflex is hereditary. If one parent has ACHOO, then half of their children will become victims; the other half will not. About two-thirds of females carry this trait. Try staring at the sun at your next party! 

Meanwhile, the pharmacist just got off the horn with a doctor who called in a dozen prescriptions. But hold the phone! Here comes Ms. Morose, the town’s most depressed person. If it was a beautiful day, Ms. Morose would find something tragic about it. “But will tomorrow be as nice?” she might say. Only on this day, she asked, “Why must we die?” 

We start with everyone’s favorite – The Second Law of Thermodynamics. This rule of physics states that matter, once organized, can only disorganize. Take a hot cup of coffee. In time, it will become stone cold. The Second Law says that the coffee cannot gain heat energy on its own. Likewise, your highly organized body with all its complexities and wonders, will only disorganize into disrepair until it no longer works. Death ensues. Then, there is the biological answer: Our genes only look out for the continuation of the species. They do not care a twit about you. So, once you reproduce and little Sally and Jack are extant, you would be a biological fossil as far as your genes are concerned. Finally, the religious angle contends that our reason for living is over, we have served our God well, and we are ready for our final reward.

Unsatisfied with the convoluted answer given by the pharmacist, Ms. Morose frowned and asked, “OK, but when will my prescription be finished?” “If you don’t die, and you don’t sneeze, and you don’t pee, in about 10 minutes,” replied the pharmacist. “Finally, an answer that makes sense,” she barked and headed off to flip through the magazines. 

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

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