Story at a glance

  • A new TikTok trend shows users placing a clove of garlic in each nostril, supposedly to clear the sinuses when one is stuffy or has a cold.
  • One of these TikTok videos was favorited 2.1 million times.
  • Some doctors have spoken out, warning that doing so could lead to a nasal obstruction, cause a bacterial infection, or lead to rashes and blistering.

A new social media trend has doctors collectively shaking their heads and thinking, please stop putting garlic up your nose on TikTok.

The latest TikTok trend shows users placing a clove of garlic in each nostril, supposedly to clear the sinuses when one is stuffy or has a cold. After keeping it in for anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes, the users then pull the garlic out, followed, typically, by long strands of mucus.

@hwannah5

Since tik tok took it down the first time. THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS. The garlic cleans out your sinuses #safe #snot #fyp #comedy #garlic

♬ original sound - hwannah5

One user’s video of the “hack” was favorited 532,700 times.

Another video, with a caption that reads, “THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS,” was favorited 2.1 million times. And the list goes on.


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Now, some doctors are speaking out to implore people to stop doing this.

One issue being highlighted is the risk of getting the garlic lodged in the nose. "Not only does it have the potential to rot or cause a nasal obstruction, it can induce an episode of sinusitis [aka a sinus infection]," Omid Mehdizadeh, an otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center, told Shape.

@rozalinekatherine

i’m shook lol #tiktoktaughtme #thankyoutiktok #tiktokhacks

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The potential obstruction could even require surgical intervention. “We typically do not recommend putting anything into the nostril for the obvious fact that it could get dislodged or lodged up into the nasal cavity,” Anthony Del Signore, director of rhinology and endoscopic skull bases surgery at Mount Sinai Union Square in New York, told TODAY. “You may need to go to the operating room to remove it. But anytime you put an organic product, or even non-organic objects (up the nose) there’s always a risk of super infection within the nasal cavity.”

The sinuses responding by producing a runny nose after it is removed also does not signify that the sinuses are being cleared.

"Garlic has a strong smell and, when it starts to irritate the nose, you'll definitely have some mucus drainage," Neil Bhattacharyya, an otolaryngologist and surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear, said. "You may feel like, 'Wow, something is mobilizing' but in reality, you're just reacting to the compound."


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In fact, the oil secretions from the garlic could have the added effect of leaving you with a rash, blisters, or permanent scarring inside and around your nose. "If you do this enough, the body will start to react to the oils and chemicals in the garlic and cause contact dermatitis in the nose," Bhattacharyya said. "Some garlic cloves are really strong, and if you get enough leaching of the chemicals and oils into your nose, it will definitely irritate it."

“You get (pus), you get pain, maybe some bleeding, and it becomes a little bit of a mess,” Del Signore said.

When it comes down to clearing sinuses in the event of a cold or stuffy nose, it’s recommended that people stick to saline nasal sprays or salt water irrigation.

“Just a gentle saline solution, using a neti pot, probably has some of the best results,” said Emily Durkin, a pediatric surgeon at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “It cleans, helps soothe the irritated lining of the nose and because it’s what we call an isotonic solution, it doesn’t lead to trauma to the mucosa.”


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Published on Jul 01, 2021