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BEYOND LOCAL: Drinking bleach, chicken pox parties among some of 2019's most bizarre health trends

One woman gave herself second-degree burns after trying vaginal steaming

Some health trends — like kale in everything — are fine. Some aren’t that healthy but also aren’t going to instantly harm you: coconut oil contains an awful lot of saturated fat, for example.

But some health trends are just a bad idea and can, in some cases, cause serious harm.

Potentially dangerous health trends crop up every year, and 2019 was no exception. Here are the downright dangerous, let alone unscientific, things people did in the name of better health this year.

Vaginal steaming

This is what it sounds like — essentially, a woman squats over a pot of hot water, sometimes scented with herbs or oils.


Some spas claim that this can help with symptoms related to menopause, fibroids and bacterial vaginosis. Experts say there is no science to support these claims.

Also, steam is hot. Putting your most sensitive parts near boiling water is a bad idea, as one woman discovered. This summer, the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada reported a case of a 62-year-old woman who gave herself second-degree burns after trying vaginal steaming in an attempt to help with symptoms of vaginal prolapse.

Charcoal toothpaste

Toothpastes containing activated charcoal have been around for a while, but they got extra attention in 2019. They’re marketed as a way to whiten your teeth.

Unfortunately, they might actually hurt your smile. Charcoal is abrasive, dental hygienists say, and can scratch up your tooth enamel. The American Dental Association warns patients to be cautious when using these products and notes their claims of efficacy and safety are “unproven.”

These toothpastes might also contain less usable fluoride than regular toothpaste, according to a clinical associate professor of dental hygiene at the University of Alberta. With prolonged use, this means that people are at a higher risk of cavities than if they stick with a dental association-approved brand.

Chickenpox parties

Canada has had vaccines against chickenpox since 1998. Since then, the number of reported cases of the rashy disease has plummeted to around 1,500 from 350,000 cases per year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

But some people still believe in getting chickenpox the old-fashioned way: from other kids.

In March, Kentucky’s governor told the public that he purposely exposed his children to chickenpox, hoping they would catch it.

At chickenpox parties, parents expose their children to an infected child with the hope that their kids will catch it and so become immune to the disease. The idea is that “natural” immunity is better.

Not so, said Dr. Tara C. Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio, in an interview with Global News earlier this year. According to her, immunity is immunity, and the vaccine is much safer than the wild virus.

The problem is chickenpox can sometimes cause complications like pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome or even death. And people infected with the wild virus stand a higher chance of getting shingles later in life than people who get the vaccine, Smith said.

So: skip the party, just get the shot.

Drinking bleach

This is probably one of the most disturbing health stories this year: reports that some parents were intentionally feeding their children bleach in order to rid them of autism spectrum disorder.

According to NBC, which investigated Facebook groups promoting the use of this “cure,” parents were encouraged to give their children the “Miracle Mineral Solution” — a chemical mixture that is essentially bleach. The groups were filled with reports of parents giving their children regular doses of MMS, either orally or as enemas.

Needless to say, this is incredibly dangerous. Dozens of injuries and two deaths were reportedly linked to this treatment.

There is no known cure for autism, and experts recommend that people run all treatments by a medical professional before trying them.

— With files from Global News’ Laura Hensley, Arti Patel and Katie Dangerfield