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Rainbow fluids

A common migraine medication has an uncommon side-effect: it can turn blood green. People with urinary catheters can sometimes produce purple pee.


Mikhail Kalugin [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sumatriptan, a drug that is often prescribed for migraines and cluster headaches, contains sulfur. In rare cases, this sulfur can combine with haemoglobin in the blood and turn it green. The Wikipedia article cites a single case from 2007, which I guess means that it’s really uncommon. But still… green blood! Gross.

Purple urine bag syndrome occurs when bacteria produce an enzyme that reacts with urine. The result are two natural dyes, indirubin and indigo, which combine to turn someone’s pee purple. This is also gross, but it is apparently harmless.

And while we’re on the topic of urine colour, there’s a persistent myth that there’s a special kind of dye you can add to a pool to track down rogue pool-urinaters. This is alas not true, and not really viable either, because the compounds in urine are pretty much immediately purged by the chlorine.

Categories: Health & medicine Sciences

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

2 replies

    1. A friend of mine worked at a hospital in the testing lab. He told me once that he had seen every colour of faeces. I asked him, incredulously, “every colour?” He nodded, sadly.

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