Dr Tom Smith: Cheesy feet | can rectal examination stop hiccups

Why do my feet smell like cheese? My partner's don't, and his are bigger and sweatier than mine.

Which cheese do they smell like? I'd bet Limburger is pretty close. That's because the bacterium used to make it is Brevibacterium epidermis, a germ that lives on human skin and is responsible for the smell. Maybe you didn't want to know that. It's important, though, because the female mosquito that spreads malaria is equally attracted to smelly feet and to Limburger cheese. Dr Bart Knols, who spends his time between Holland and Tanzania, is working on a trap that uses the odour to study the insects.

Meanwhile, don't think of going to Africa for a holiday until you have solved your foot problem, just in case the insects find you too attractive. It seems your partner may be safer - size of feet and how much they sweat make no diff erence to the smell.

Is it true a rectal examination can stop hiccups?

Apparently so. Dr Francis Fesmire of the University of Tennessee wrote up a case in which he used his gloved finger to massage the rectum of a patient with severe, long-term hiccups. It worked. What gave him the idea? He reasoned that by stimulating the vagus nerve (part of the system of nerves that controls the movements of the bowel and the heart rate) he might interrupt the nerve signals that were causing the muscle contractions in the diaphragm that produce hiccups. It seems he was right, although there are other ways to stimulate the vagus - massaging a carotid artery or pulling on an ear lobe are two.

· Do you have a question for Dr Smith? Email doctordoctor@guardian.co.uk

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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