The Reason You Shouldn’t Kill the Spiders in Your House, According to an Entomologist

CBCK-Christine/iStock via Getty Images
CBCK-Christine/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’re not a full-blown arachnophobe, your reaction to spotting a spider skittering across your floor is probably some combination of shrieking and whacking it with the nearest shoe. Next time, you should just take a deep breath, tip your hat, and let the eight-legged critter continue on its merry way.

Though you might prefer to believe that spiders rarely find their way into your immaculately clean home, that’s almost definitely not the case. In an article for The Conversation, entomologist Matt Bertone and his colleagues at North Carolina State University surveyed 50 North Carolina homes and found spiders in every single one. The truth is, Bertone says, spiders are important to our indoor ecosystems. Since they’re generalist predators, they’ll pretty much eat anything, from the dead fly on your window sill to the mosquito that had planned to make a midnight snack out of your face. Sometimes, they’ll even eat other spiders. So whether a spider is just passing through your house or has taken up permanent residence in the upper corner of your closet, it’s definitely working for room and board.

Also, the spiders in your house likely aren’t the terrifyingly huge, mammal-devouring specimens that make great headlines. In their inventory, Bertone and his team primarily found common house spiders, like harmless cobweb spiders and cellar spiders. While most spiders are venomous, their venom often isn’t strong enough to affect you, and their fangs are often too small to pierce your skin. And if you shudder at the thought of spiders crawling over you when you’re sleeping, keep in mind that’s not likely, either—our snoring, rustling, and even plain breathing are enough to keep them from investigating further.

So remember, just because you can’t see the spiders in your home doesn’t mean they’re not there, and besides, they’re working hard to make your home an insect-free habitat for you. If you still can’t bring yourself to let one scurry away to who-knows-where, consider releasing it outside, where it can secure the perimeter from disease-carrying pests.

[h/t The Conversation]

The Reason Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep

Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images
Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images

The sight of a dog batting its tiny paws around while sleeping is irrefutably adorable, and it’s not hard to imagine that your beloved pet is dreaming of swimming, fetching a Frisbee, or bounding around the yard in pursuit of a scampering squirrel.

In truth, that’s pretty much exactly what’s going on. Dogs, like humans, dream during the REM cycle of sleep, and their twitches are responses to whatever’s happening in those dreams. Though all dogs can exhibit muscle movements while dreaming, PetMD reports that it most often affects younger and older dogs. This is because of the pons, a part of the brainstem with two “off” switches that regulate movement during the sleep cycle.

“If either or both of these ‘off’ switches is not fully developed or has grown weak due to the aging process, then the muscles are not completely turned off and during dreaming, the animal will start to move,” Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher and former psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, told PetMD. “How much movement occurs depends upon how effective or ineffective these ‘off’ switches are.”

As long as your dog looks like it’s having a grand old time in its dreams, you can sit back and enjoy the show. If you think your dog might be having a nightmare, be careful about waking it up. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, a dog woken abruptly from a bad dream might bite you before it realizes its distress wasn’t real.

You should, however, learn to recognize the difference between a normal dream and a seizure.

“Some [dogs] manifest dreaming with twitching, paddling, or kicks of the legs. These movements are often brief (less than 30 seconds) and intermittent,” Jerry Klein, the AKC’s chief veterinary officer, described on the AKC website. “Seizing dogs’ limbs, on the other hand, tend to be rigid and stiffer, with more violent movement.”

The seizure can also be accompanied by loss of bowel control. If that description sounds familiar, you should talk to your veterinarian.

[h/t PetMD]

The Reason Doctors Have Such Sloppy Handwriting

Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images
Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images

It seems counterintuitive that doctors—widely regarded as some of the smartest, most detail-oriented people out there—so often have horrible handwriting. From a patient’s standpoint, it could seem downright terrifying. If your pharmacist misinterprets your trusted physician’s chicken scratch, you could wind up with a dangerously high dosage of medicine, or even the wrong medicine altogether.

In 2006, the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine estimated that doctors’ sloppy handwriting was killing more than 7000 people per year, and preventable medication errors were harming around 1.5 million Americans annually. Many medical offices have since switched to electronic medical records and prescriptions, and some states have even required them to do so.

But that doesn’t tell us why doctors’ penmanship is so poor in the first place. One reason is because doctors have to write much more than we realize.

“In the medical field, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide, told The Healthy.

If you’re the very first patient of the day, the record of your visit and any prescription slips you get might be perfectly legible. Ten hours and dozens of appointments later, however, your doctor’s hand muscles are probably pretty cramped.

The content they’re writing isn’t particularly easy to spell, either. If a doctor is jotting down glomerulonephritis, for example, they may not stop to make sure all those vowels are in the right places.

“We have so many technical terms that are impossible to write,” Thum said. “You sometimes scribble to cover the error.”

However, if a prescription looks indecipherable to you, it’s possible that your doctor is using shorthand that your pharmacist will immediately understand—like the abbreviation QD, from the Latin phrase for “one a day.”

If you’re confused about what the doctor has written on your prescription slip, you can always ask them to clarify aloud, and double-check that it matches what’s printed on your prescription bottle.

[h/t MSN]

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