Scared to death (and other spooky health topics)

Beau Links, DO, at PPG – Family Medicine, Huntington, chats about some of the spine-chilling health phenomenon that seem to arise around Halloween.

I don’t like being scared. Halfway through reading “Arachnophobia” I put it in the freezer. I had back pain after watching The Ring because I was so tense (there’s no good reason to watch that movie). I’ll never understand the thrill of haunted houses or the jack in the box. In summary, I don’t like being scared. I do enjoy writing and research though and below are some hopefully fun questions and answers about fear and scary situations.

What are goosebumps?
Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. (Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin requested they be named "turkeybumps" but it never caught on). Under the surface of the skin are miniature muscles that are attached to each hair. When these muscles contract, the hairs will stand up.

Can you be scared to death?
The short answer is … yes. The long answer would involve describing the effects of hormones released from various organs in your body, and with the goal of this article being fun and lighthearted, the thought of doing that scares me. Think of fear as stress. Stress causes your blood pressure to rise and your heart rate to elevate. Too high of either could be deadly. On the flipside, you cannot be bored to death (no matter what your children say).

Why are people afraid of the dark?
Because that’s where the monsters hide.

Is spontaneous combustion real?
Spontaneous combustion occurs when an object bursts into flames from within, without an external heat source. I’ve always been a skeptic of human spontaneous combustion. That is until my brother made the foolish decision to eat a ghost pepper. He looked like he could have burst into flames at any minute. He would have been okay though, his tears would have put out the fire. To combust, a human body would need two things: 1) ntensely high heat, and 2) a flammable substance. Since the human body normally produces neither, I think this one is false. Smoking while wearing oxygen doesn’t count, and is a really bad idea.  

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill with this being scared thing. I’m a grown man. I should be able to read a book about spiders without being terrified. Maybe I’ll go get that book out of the freezer and finish it … I can feel the turkeybumps coming on already.  

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