"Nasal Tampon" Made of Cured Pork Is a Great Cure for Nosebleeds

By Sarah Zhang | January 27, 2012 4:04 pm

salt pork

Bacon gets all the internet glory, but its more old-fashioned cousin salt pork may actually be good for you—for your nosebleeds, if not your waistline. Doctors recently used strips of cured salt pork to stop a life-threatening nosebleed. One of the doctors remembered the unconventional treatment from a field manual he saw in his military days, after exhausting all medical treatments short of risky surgeries.

The patient was a four-year-old girl with Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare blood disorder where her platelets are unable to do their normal job of blood clotting. Surgery and injection of blood coagulation proteins didn’t stop her bleeding after more than a week, so the doctors turned to something untested and low tech: “Cured salted pork crafted as a nasal tampon and packed within the nasal vaults successfully stopped nasal hemorrhage promptly, effectively, and without sequelae,” they wrote in a paper about the episode. While “nasal tampon” may sound distinctly undelicious as a pork product, it worked—not once, but twice, as a cure. When the girl re-injured herself four weeks later, the doctors stuffed salt pork up her nose again and she was home in less than 72 hours.

Now we all know that pork fat is tasty, but what does it have to do with stopping nosebleeds? The salt pork remedy has been around for several decades, reported by Dr. Alfred Jared Cone at a meeting of the American Laryngological, Rhinological, and Otological Society in 1940. It was thought that salt from the pork draws water to the nasal tissues, making them swell up and squeeze close the broken blood vessels. The doctors in this study add that the salt pork may contain proteins that help blood coagulate, though the exact mechanism of how it stops bleeding is still unknown. Bacon enthusiasts should note that salt pork is not the same thing as bacon: Salt pork contains more fat and is not smoked. So don’t take this as affirmation that “Bacon is good for me.”

Dr. Ian Humphrey, who treated the bleeding girl, also cautions against using salt pork at home because potential bacteria and parasites in the raw meat would be all too happy to find their way into a bleeding nose-wound. You’re probably better off pinching your nose and grabbing some nasal decongestant spray, though that presents fewer opportunities for leftovers.

[via The Guardian]

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the valuable information

  • Lotr1066

    There is a lot of this “it works, but we do not know how it works”, in medicine. Should we not try and find out how it works and make a better solution in the process?

    • silverstreak

      If something “works” does not preclude trying to find out why. 

  • Anita Mitchell

    I’d bet that the pork provided the pressure on the blood vessel, but it was the salt component that squelched the bleeding.  Hish osmotic pressures from salt. Sugar cured pork (again sugar has high osmotic pressure) might have worked also. The pork may be extraneous except for mechanical pressure it provides.  Both salt and sugar intensely bacterio-static too. Sugar used in some countries to pack decubitus ulcers with moderate success when other methods have failed.)  Ever notice how you can leave a sugar bowl or a salt cellar uncovered in the remote cabin unattended, and when you return, nothing has grown in either? That’s the high osmotic pressures at work.

  • DS

    So how were the doctors able to ensure the salt pork was sterile enough to use?

  • Uumann

    A few years ago, someone writing in Health Magazine noted that pork thickens the blood for 3  or so hours after it is ingested.  Perhaps this is the same phenomena.

  • dratman

    I thought everyone did that to stop a nosebleed

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