A Cure For Sore Throats?

Performers at fairs and in the streets keep us entertained with twirling fire-staffs, fire breathing and sword swallowing. The acts are very dramatic, even sensational if well done and I guess if their not well done, the performers won’t be doing much of it in the future. But even for the expert there are side effects to these extreme spectator sports.

Minor burns and swallowing hydrocarbons are serious enough, but catching your hair or clothes alight is much more serious and although our local club has fire blankets on hand, this may not be the case in front of a bus-queue.

Swallowing swords can have other side effects and Witcomb and Meyer carried out an international survey and wrote up their findings in the British Medical Journal (1). There were 110 sword swallowers from 16 countries who were invited to outline side effects that they’d experienced. Swords range in length from 17 inches to 31 inches, so not too wimpy. The authors excluded exotic items like spear guns and jackhammers so as not to confuse the issue.

The main side effect reported was “sword throat” which occurred when learning or performing too often in one day. A sword throat is a sore throat and was treated by over the counter remedies and cutting out swords from their diet for a few days.

Perforations did occur occasionally. Distractions made this more likely. Two examples mentioned were that of a swallower with a macaw on his shoulder that started to misbehave, and a belly dancer, with three sword down at once, who got a surprise when someone started to stuff dollar bills down her belt. The wriggling caused the blades to turn into scissors and chop at her oesophagus.

This may seem hard to swallow, but the prognosis for such injuries was for a better outcome than perforation injuries from other causes.

  1. http://www.bmj.com/content/333/7582/1285.abstract

Thanks to the Annals of Improbable Research for bring this to light.

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