Myth busting: Smacking the warm bus seat before sitting prevents piles
CNA Lifestyle’s new series debunks some commonly held notions about health and wellness. This month, tell your grandma it’s perfectly fine to sit on that warm seat.
You may not see many people doing it now on public transportation – especially with everyone trying to minimise contact with any type of surface – but you’re eventually bound to spot one.
We’re talking about the practice of smacking the bus or MRT seat before sitting down on it.
So why do some people do it? The rationale, at least for those who believe this old wives’ tale, is that that it’s supposed to cool the seat down – because the body heat left behind by the previous sitter can do strange things to your bum, like cause piles or haemorrhoids.
Myth busted: “There is actually no proven harm in sitting on a warm seat,” said Dr Sabrina Wee, the head of the Gastroenterology Workgroup at SingHealth Polyclinics. Instead, she said, what does harm you is how long you spend sitting on something, regardless of whether it’s warm or not. And most of the time, it takes place somewhere more private than a bus – your toilet seat.
WHAT CAUSES PILES AND WHO ARE LIKELY TO DEVELOP THEM?
Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, are swollen veins that can occur in the anus or rectum, said Dr Wee. They can cause pain, itchiness and bleeding when they become inflamed. “In Singapore, it is estimated that about 33 per cent of Singaporeans suffer from haemorrhoids,” she said.
Both men and women, regardless of age, can develop piles for a variety of reasons. Straining is certainly one way as the action causes blood to pool in the veins around the anus. For that reason, constipation, diarrhoea and childbirth are common culprits as they cause you to strain, said Dr Wee.
Interestingly, prolonged sitting or standing can also contribute to piles; the action allows gravity to push the swollen blood vessels down and out of the anus. For this reason, individuals with jobs that require them to sit a lot, such as taxi drivers and office workers, are prone to developing piles.
WHAT RELIEF IS THERE FOR PILES?
Obviously, sitting on a hard surface while having a case of inflamed piles is a painful experience – whether or not the seat is warm. But typically, the inflammation subsides on its own in about two weeks.
During this time, Dr Wee advised to avoid sitting too much. If you have a desk-bound job, stand instead of sit at your desk. If you must sit, get a cushion to ease the swelling, she said.
It also makes sense to try and soften your stool during this period, so get on a high-fibre diet, limit fatty food (it can exacerbate constipation) and increase your fluid intake to 2 litres a day, she said. While on the toilet, avoid prolonged sitting and excessive straining.
While a warm seat doesn’t give you piles, having a warm sitz bath – where you literally sit in water – can actually help to relieve the pain if you already have it, said Dr Wee. There are also over-the-counter medicated creams and ointments to reduce the pain during a flare-up.
“Surgery may be required if the methods above do not help, and the piles do not resolve,” said Dr Wee. “Consider seeing a specialist if the piles are persistent and especially if there is recurrent bleeding.”
But the moral of the story is: Prevention is always better than cure. “Take adequate fluids and fibre, avoid straining when moving bowels, and avoid long sessions on the toilet,” said Dr Wee.