When you’re feeling sick, there’s a new place to look for medical advice.
That’s right, people are flipping through TikTok videos.
One report listed several remedies, including a viral video that involves suppressing a cough by pouring salt and pepper on a lemon and sucking on it.
While that sounds painful and a bit odd, the TikTok user swears it works. The one where you put potatoes on your feet is downright ridiculous; judging from the comments, it seems most of the followers agree.
Some of the clips seem compelling enough — like the user who said placing onions around your house will draw bacterial agents out of the air.
I also liked the one where you place an ice cube in your mouth, pushing it up with your tongue, as a way to clear a stuffy nose. In fact, I tried that one myself recently. I was a little stuffed up from being out in the cold, but I felt like my nasal congestion actually worsened. I wondered if I was doing it wrong.
Unfortunately, as HealthReporter.com medical expert Dr. Rosmy Barrios says, most of these home remedies don’t really work. In my view, at least they might accomplish the goal of making us think about how to address symptoms instead of merely suffering in silence. The one caveat, according to Dr. Barrios, is that sucking on a lemon actually might provide some Vitamin C to help you battle a cough.
Mostly, Dr. Barrios said the videos don’t really address any real ailments.
“In theory, sucking on an ice cube may ease stuffy nose symptoms by narrowing blood vessels; however, cold air prevents white blood cells from reaching the mucous membrane, making it harder for the body to fight germs and viruses,” she said in the article. “A better natural home remedy is drinking fluids to stay hydrated. It will keep your body temperature in check and will also help reduce blockage and swelling in your nose.”
It made me wonder why we are turning to social media apps like TikTok for medical advice in the first place.
One reason might be the sheer immediacy of the apps. We can search for the word “cough” or “congestion” and flip through a few videos. Meanwhile, calling your local clinic might result in waiting on hold forever, driving to the doctor, and then…waiting even longer.
There’s also an illusion of trust. When we see a video on a popular social media app, the first assumption we make is that there’s some value or support for the claims. Conspiracy theories often thrive online because, we figure, if the platform allowed this material to exist, it must have some validity. We’ve been conditioned to accept things at face value.
I’m not criticizing the users for posting these videos, since they seem sincere and maybe there is some ancillary benefit or the remedy depends on your own condition. (If you try the ice cube trick to clear a stuffy nose and it works, post on my Twitter feed.)
I put them in the category of — it can’t hurt to try something. Maybe the one where you put potatoes in your socks will give you the sense that you are taking control of the problem. Even if it’s a completely false assumption.