"My doctor tells me I should get a colonoscopy."


I’m about to turn 50, and my doctor tells me I should get a colonoscopy. Is this really necessary? It sounds highly unpleasant.ERICA IN MARYLAND

Listen, I understand that a colonoscopy is a pain in the, um, neck. But yes. You really should get one. Science says so. And to make yourself feel better mid-probe: Just think about the medical practices of the past. They make colonoscopies look like a nice way to spend your Tuesday morning.

You’ve probably heard of snake oil? The original snake oil was a Chinese remedy for joint pain. But when it comes to animalistic cures, that was the least of it. In ancient Egypt, the cure for a toothache was to place a hot, freshly sliced mouse on your ivories. Which is crazy, because everyone knows that the proper medical use for a mouse is to fry it and eat it to cure whooping cough (at least that’s what many Brits thought in the 19th century).

The list goes on: Boiled cockroaches cured earaches, crushed cockroaches treated ulcers and cancer, and cow dung healed fractures. George Washington’s doctor swabbed the Founding Father’s throat with dried beetle paste to cure his cold.

And then there was trepanation. This is the official term for drilling a hole in your head. To repeat: a hole. In the head. Medical experts from various cultures—from the Neolithic period to Renaissance Europe and even the present day—thought perforation of the skull could help with migraines, epilepsy, and other ailments.

Early-20th-century American doctor John Brinkley had his own simple cure-all: surgically inserting a goat’s glands into the scrotum (for a man, obviously; for a woman, the glands went into the abdomen). This was supposed to help with everything from impotence to senility, flatulence to weak eyesight. Mostly, though, it just helped make Brinkley a multimillionaire.

Still, goat gonads are preferable to flat-out poison. The toxic metal mercury was a popular treatment for syphilis (Beethoven’s doctors gave him mercury ointment). It was also prescribed for toothaches, tuberculosis, and constipation. As a young politician, Abraham Lincoln took mercury-laced blue pills, which some historians speculate led to his mood disorders. And in the early 1900s, radioactive water was all the rage as a treatment for lethargy. You could also buy radioactive toothpastes if you wanted a truly glowing smile.

Throughout much of history, if your medicine man wasn’t killing you outright, he was being supremely creepy. Until the 20th century, European and American doctors would relieve women’s “hysteria” with a vaginal massage to “paroxysm.” In fact, the first electronic vibrator was designed in 1880 to relieve doctors of this manual labor.

The list of insane medical practices could fill a thousand prescription pads, but let’s instead end where we began—at the end. Although colonoscopies are new, medical rear entry is not. Consider one of the most popular cures of times past: the smoke enema. Here, a doctor would blow tobacco smoke into a hose and up the patient’s bottom. It was supposed to treat everything from stomachaches to cholera to drowning. It’s the origin of the phrase “I’m not just blowing smoke up your arse.” And kids, remember: It’s just not cool.

This story originally appeared in an issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe here.

ATM Fees Reach a New Record High

You have good reason to flinch every time you withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM. The cash machine operator and the bank each hit you with a separate fee for these withdrawals, and both types set record highs this year, according to a new Bankrate survey.

In Phoenix and Atlanta, grabbing cash from an out-of-network ATM will set you back more than $5. But even the cheapest metro area isn’t actually much less expensive: In San Francisco, the average fees are now $3.90. “The national average is $4.57, which means stopping at an out-of-network ATM for $20 will cost nearly 23 percent in fees,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior vice president and chief financial analyst.

To skirt the fees, stay in network. Virtually any bank will let you withdraw money from its own ATMs, of course. But if you want easy, low-cost access to more cash machines, ask your bank if they participate in a larger ATM network. Some do, to provide their customers with more widespread access.

While ATM fees climbed higher in 2016, one type of bank fee actually broke its 17-year streak of increases: overdraft fees. The average is now $33.07 (yikes!), but that's 0.1 percent below last year’s average. It’s probably too soon to celebrate the downward trend, says McBride. Overdraft fee increases still outnumbered decreases by 5 to 1 in the national survey.

McBride’s best advice for avoiding the hefty penalty? “Sign up for email and text alerts that let you know when your balance is getting low, so you can proactively move money into the account,” he says. “And keep tabs on your available account balance through online and mobile banking—particularly before initiating transactions.”

Which State Has the Most Millennials Still Living at Home?

Escaping your parents’ home doesn’t seem to have quite the same urgency it once did. According to Time, recent Census data indicates that a substantial number of Millennials—typically considered to be those 18 to 34 years of age—are choosing to remain in their childhood residences, with one state in particular crowding out the rest.

The winner? New Jersey, which has just under 47 percent of that demographic living at home. Eastern state neighbors New York and Connecticut each have roughly 40 percent choosing to stay in the nest, a significant spike from the national average of around 33 percent. That’s up from 23 percent in 2000. (The state with the lowest percentage of Millennials rooming with their 'rents? North Dakota, with just 14.1 percent.)

It can be difficult to extrapolate why some states have more clingy kids than others. The price of real estate might be one explanation (rent is much more expensive in New Jersey and New York than it is out West); the trend of Millennials getting married later in life might be another. Without the need for their own mortgage, utility bills, and consumer spending, it’s possible that the homebodies may even be contributing to an economic downturn.

Then again, who can resist free laundry? “There’s the comfort of someone to help you out at all times,” college student Irsia Khan told USAToday.com in June 2016. “Having your meals ready and your laundry done for you takes the load off on the rest of the things you go through in college.”

[h/t Time]


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