A mask-clad Palestinian worker shower his head in Gaza City during a heatwave on September 3, 2020, amidst a COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic-imposed lockdown. (AFP / Mohammed Abed)

Wetting your head before your body while showering does not cause stroke, experts say

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Multiple Facebook posts claim that people often have strokes while in the bathroom because they are showering in the "wrong sequence" by wetting their heads before their bodies. The posts claim this sequence "causes the body to adjust its temperature too quickly", potentially causing a stroke. The claim is false; stroke experts told AFP there is no evidence to show that wetting your head before your body while showering can lead to a stroke.

The claim was published on Facebook here on September 26, 2018. The post has been shared more than 170,000 shares, most recently in October 2020.

The text image in the Facebook post reads: "Why do strokes often happen in the bathroom? This was written by a UiTM Professor with the national sports board. He has been advising people not to wet the head and hair first when showering as this is the wrong sequence. This causes the body to adjust its temperature too quickly because we are warm-blooded. By performing this incorrect sequence, blood rushing up to the head may cause capillary or artery breakage, hence, a stroke and a fall. The right way to shower is to start wetting the body from the feet up to the shoulders slowly. A sensation of vapor coming out of the crown on the head or bristling of body hair may be felt for some people. Follow this procedure then shower as usual. This is especially useful for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even migraine."

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post as of October 26, 2020.

Other instances of the claim appear on Facebook here, here, here, here and here.

The claim, however, is false, according to experts. 

“There is no evidence on this assertion about the sequence for showering,” Thanh Phan, head of neuroscience research at Monash Health, told AFP via email on October 4, 2020.

Phan explained that the “majority of stroke is due to clot obstructing blood flow in the brain. These clots come from either the heart or large blood vessels  (such as carotid artery). The less common cause is a burst blood vessel.”

He also pointed to a statement published here by the American Heart Association on showering and bathing for stroke survivors.

“It does not mention anything about the sequence other than how patients with disabilities can shower safely,” Phan said.

Professor Bruce Campbell, chair of the Stroke Foundation Clinical Council, also refuted the claim in the misleading posts. He said there was “no evidence [we are] aware of linking showering with stroke.”

“To reduce your stroke risk, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Have regular check-ups with your GP,” he told AFP in an email on October 30, 2020.