The social media platform TikTok is home to many of the latest viral trends like dances that go with songs, the Silhouette Challenge, the Watermelon/Mustard challenge (yuck) and now it seems like the latest trendy challenge is to stick garlic up your nose in an effort to ease sinus congestion.
Sounds crazy, but if you’ve ever experienced a severely stuffed up nose, then you can probably relate to the desire to try anything. But the new social media trend might be dangerous.
All over TikTok you’ll see videos that have been shared thousands of times in which people put whole raw cloves of garlic up their nostrils, wait a while, and then show off waterfalls of snot coming out of their nostrils after removing the cloves. One TikTok of a woman with garlic in her nose has been viewed nearly 4.4 million times
It looks silly, but could such a bizarre trick actually work? And is it worth trying to put garlic up your nose the next time your sinuses are blocked?
Just as a refresher, the sinuses are small hollow cavities in the facial bones surrounding the nose, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. They’re located behind the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Normally, air and mucus flow out of your sinuses through small tubes connected to the nasal passages. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue lining your sinuses, and it’s usually due to an infection or allergy, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This swelling causes that familiar (and unpleasant) sensation of sinus pressure. And when your nose is swollen or stuffed up, it can block the sinuses from draining mucus properly, causing even more congestion and pain.
Health experts all over the world agree that garlic cloves inserted into nostrils will not relieve stuffy noses and inflamed sinuses. But doctors do understand why people might think garlic works: After people remove the garlic, their noses run. But that doesn’t happen for the reasons they think.
“Anytime you block the opening of the nose, it’s going to fill with mucous,” Dr. Jay Youngerman, chief of otolaryngology at Northwell Health Plainview Hospital in New York, told TODAY. “That’s just the nose’s response to being blocked.”
“I think it’s a terrible trend,” Anthony Del Signore, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology and director of rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, tells SELF. “It’s just a bad idea all around…And if anything, it’s going to cause more of an issue.”
Other experts suspect that people turn to garlic because they believe it works like other strong smells, such as eucalyptus.
“What they’re trying to do is use the odorants from the garlic itself to cause a vasoconstrictive effect, which causes the nasal mucosa to decongest and which may open up the nasal passages,” Dr. Anthony Del Signore, director of rhinology and endoscopic skull bases surgery at Mount Sinai Union Square in New York, told TODAY. “The vasoconstriction allows for greater airflow.
But garlic in nostrils doesn’t quite work like that. Thanks to its caustic nature, it’s likely that garlic might cause irritation, burning and possibly even bleeding.
“Garlic is a pretty strong substance,” Dr. Dana Crosby, chair of the department of otolaryngology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, told TODAY. “It’s almost causing a kind of dermatitis type (acute to severe skin irritation) reaction where the mucosa gets really irritated.”