Believe it or not, using cured salted pork as a "nasal tampon" was once a common method for treating nosebleeds. The practice eventually fell out of favor, but physicians at the Detroit Medical Center recently gave the old cure a try, and used the salty breakfast staple to stop a 4-year-old girl's rare, life-threatening nasal hemorrhages. Score one for bacon fans? Here's what you should know:
Doctors did what?
A 4-year-old girl was checked into Detroit Medical Center with Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare genetic platelet disorder that causes chronic nosebleeds. A report in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology says she underwent surgery and received blood transfusions, but doctors were unable to stop the bleeding, which persisted for more than a week. One of the patient's doctors, Walter Bekenky, "recalled a recommendation he had read in a surgical field manual while in the military" — use pork to stop the bleeding. The physicians purchased cured salted pork from a nearby market and cut strips to fit into the girl's nose.
Then what happened?
"Her bleeding immediately stopped. She was able to go home within 72 hours of the pork being placed in her nose," said Dr. Ian Humphreys, one of the specialists who worked on the patient. "We saw a dramatic turnaround in her overall medical condition." A few months later, the girl slipped and bumped her nose, causing the bleeding to start again. She returned to the hospital, doctors immediately fitted her nasal cavities with cured pork, and she was well enough to go home after 48 hours.
And pork has been used before?
Yes. Doctors used the technique to treat chronic nosebleeds throughout the 20th century, in patients with leukemia, hemophilia, hypertension, and a variety of other conditions. But the practice eventually faded because of potential "bacterial and parasitic complications," the doctors say in their report, and as "newer synthetic hemostatic agents and surgical techniques" were developed.
What makes bacon so effective?
The doctors speculate that the "surprising" "curative powers of cured pork" may have something to do with "certain tissue factors that help the body stop bleeding," says Carrie Gann at ABC News. But doctors caution that this rare case was performed under the watchful eye of medical experts, and should not be tried at home. Says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel: "Don't just go shoving any old piece of bacon into your nostrils."