Accidents happen, right? Most are from obvious causes, such as using power tools or sharp knives, climbing a ladder, walking across a wet floor, choking on a piece of food, or running a red light. But mishaps also occur in the most unexpected places and under seemingly innocuous circumstances. Here are eight causes of accidents—some more common than others—that may surprise you. Among the lessons learned: Be mindful when zipping; if you give a hickey, do so gently; and watch out for falling coconuts.
According to a study in the British Journal of Urology International, about 2,000 people (including children) go to the emergency room every year in the U.S. because of zipper injuries to the genitals, most always the penis. The risk of zipper-related penile injuries—or ZIRPI (yup, there is an acronym for it)—is higher in males who are uncircumcised and boys under 18, according to preliminary research. Whether going commando increases the risk remains controversial.
Another big youch down under. Almost 70 percent of the 13,175 toilet-related injuries seen in emergency rooms over a nine-year period in the U.S. were due to a toilet seat falling on top of a penis, pinning it between the seat and the bowl, according to a 2013 study from UC San Francisco. About 97 percent of the injuries—coined “penile slam syndrome”—occurred in children ages seven or younger. Presumably bigger and heavier toilet seats, including those made of ceramic or wood, would be more injurious.
Bay leaves are commonly used to flavor soups and stews, but this aromatic herb can have a more treacherous side: Swallowing one can perforate or cause blockage in the intestines, as has been described in several case reports over the years, including one in the Canadian Journal of Surgery. Bay leaves, which are rigid and have sharp edges, remain intact as they travel through the gut. Ingesting one is like swallowing a razor blade. Always remove them before serving the dish.
Driving with flip-flops on can have deadly consequences. In a small German study that used a driving simulator, almost half of the drivers who wore such sandals missed making contact with the brake pedal at least once, and a third slipped from the pedal at least once, delaying braking. Not surprisingly, flip-flops have been blamed for many car accidents, including one involving a driver who slammed into a bicyclist after becoming distracted when his sandals got caught in the pedal. Also beware platform shoes, high heels, and certain other footwear behind the wheel, the Canadian Safety Council warns.
Coconut palm trees bring to mind idyllic vacations in tropical environs, but here’s why you may not want to sit under one. As reported in the Journal of Trauma, nearly 3 percent of trauma admissions at a hospital in Papua New Guinea over a four-year period were due to injuries from falling coconuts. Two people died instantly and two others required surgery. Coconuts weigh up to 9 pounds, and the impact force when one falls could be greater than 2,200 pounds, the researchers calculated.
About 130 people a year in the U.S. suffer serious injury from inadvertently ingesting the small bristles from wire brushes that are used to clean barbecue grills. This happens when bristles get left behind on the grill and end up embedded in burgers. The wires can damage the mouth, throat, and esophagus—and even perforate the intestines. Discard your wire-bristle brush if any bristles are loose or rusty, and always inspect the grill carefully before using it. Better yet, use a nylon or metal-coil brush, stainless steel grid scraper, or pumice stone.
In 2010, a 44-year-old woman was unable to move one of her arms several days after she received a hickey on her neck. Doctors determined that the neurological symptoms were due to a blood clot in the carotid artery in the neck, most likely because the suction of the hickey damaged the walls of this major blood vessel. More tragically, in 2016, a 17-year-old boy reportedly had convulsions and subsequently died after his girlfriend gave him a love bite.
Wearing jewelry while working on your car is not a good mix, according to several reports, including one in 2013 in Orthopedics. An auto mechanic suffered a significant burn on his finger when his gold ring touched the positive terminal of a 12-volt car battery and the wrench he was holding touched both the gold ring and the battery’s negative terminal. This completed a circuit, resulting in an electrical burn. Gold is a good conductor of both electricity and heat, the paper noted.