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Testing 5 TikTok Tricks for Staying Flu-Free
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Testing 5 TikTok Tricks for Staying Flu-Free

HealthReporter author Nadzeya Sankovich
Written by Nadzeya Sankovich | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 13, 2023
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5 min
5 Viral TikTok Hacks for the Flu Season
Health Reporter edit

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TikTok is a lifehack treasury. Most hacks are anecdotal, but sometimes there are genuine pearls.

How to distinguish a pearl? Check it out by yourself, you might say. But be careful – it can often end badly.

For example, the blogger from the UK cooked eggs according to a recipe from TikTok and got severe facial burns.1 The eggs did cook, but the woman’s life didn’t get any easier.

So, what if life hacks concern your health? That’s right, entrust the verification to professionals.

The Health Reporter team selected the 5 most popular TikTok hacks and checked them for medical evidence with an expert Rosmy Barrios, MD.

Which hacks can you trust? Let’s figure it out.

#1 Sock Potato Against Flu

@food_over_rx

Potato sock flu remedy. It works !! My daughter has been feeling so much better !!! #potato #potatosocks

♬ Spongebob Tomfoolery – Dante9k Remix – David Snell

Hack description

Get a potato, cut it in half, and get two slices out of it. Then, put it beneath each foot and cover it with a sock overnight.

The author of the life hack claims that the following day, the potato slices will turn dark and remove the toxins and viruses from your body.

Scientific evidence

There is no medical literature or study to support the remedy.2 Some doctors claim potatoes cannot absorb impurities or viruses out of your feet.3

So then, where did this remedy come from?

Putting potatoes on the feet could appear due to traditional Chinese medicine called reflexology. In this science, the feet contain reflex zones corresponding to organs and other parts of the body.4 By affecting these reflex zones, various diseases can be treated.

Some studies confirm that reflexology works, but again, nothing is related to potatoes and the flu.5

However, there is evidence that when you are sick, potatoes are good to eat.6 They are rich in vitamin C, which helps the body fight infections, as well as vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and others.

Potato inhalations are also helpful during a cough or runny nose. They warm up the mucous membranes of respiratory tracts, accelerating the inflammatory process.

Before inhalation, be sure to consult your doctor.

Medical opinion

“Potatoes in your socks can’t cure the flu or a cold – there is no medical research that shows that this method works. However, natural remedies such as drinking plenty of fluids, herbal tea, salt water rinse, chicken broth, and humidifier may ease flu or cold symptoms,” Rosmy Barrios said.

#2 Lemon With Salt and Pepper From Cough

Hack description

If you have a bad cough, take a slice of lemon and pour some salt and black pepper on it. Next, suck on this lemon, and, as the author claims, you won’t worry about the cough anymore.

Scientific evidence

According to medical studies, vitamin C significantly reduces the duration of common colds.7

Salt and pepper also help: salt opens the nasal airways, kills bacteria, and facilitates the drainage of the sinuses.8 Black pepper has expectorant properties and is rich in vitamin C.9

So, from a medical point of view, this life hack can actually work. The main thing is not to overdo the amount of lemon, salt, and pepper – in this case, you might get an allergic reaction or food poisoning.

Medical opinion

“Lemon with salt and pepper, like other natural home remedies, can ease flu or cold symptoms. Vitamin C in lemon supports the immune system and is most effective when taken both before and during the flu or cold.

Pepper and other spicy foods like garlic, turmeric, and ginger are all potent anti-inflammatories, taming irritation in your nose, throat, and upper respiratory tracts.

In theory, salt improves oral health by loosening thick mucus and removing irritants like bacteria, viruses, and allergens from your throat. The salt solution provides the additional benefit of drawing excess fluid from inflamed tissues.

The best use of salt for the throat is mixing half a teaspoon of salt in a full glass of warm water and swishing it around your mouth and the back of your throat for a few seconds before spitting it out,” Rosmy Barrios said.

#3 Ice Cube for Stuffy Nose

Hack description

If you have a stuffy nose, put an ice cube in your mouth and hold it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue. As the author says, it would constrict the blood vessels, and you will immediately feel better.

Scientific evidence

Surprisingly, various medical researchers approve of the life hack.

Ice packs within the mouth significantly decrease nasal mucosal blood flow (on average, by 23%).10 Moreover, sucking ice cubes produces a significantly greater fall in nasal temperature than applying ice packs to the forehead.11

Technically, this hack works – stuffy nose might go away. However, sucking on ice can cause various problems with your teeth: damage to enamel and tooth fillings, gum diseases, and others.

Medical opinion

“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.

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,” Rosmy Barrios said.

#4 Onions Around the House

Hack description

When you have flu symptoms, put red onions around the house to draw the bacteria and germs out of the air.

Scientific evidence

There is no scientific evidence that onions can cure bronchitis, fever or kill viruses in the air.12, 13 Onion’s juices are antimicrobial, but they will fight bacteria rather than attract them.14

So instead of leaving onions all over the house, pay attention to their nutritional benefits. Onions contain phytoncides that help fight viruses and microbes, as well as vitamins B6 and C, folate, iron, and potassium.15

The most useful onion is raw, not cooked. But remember that a large amount of onions irritates the stomach.

Medical opinion

“This hack has been around for a very long time, but there is no research showing that it has a benefit for coughs, colds, and flu.

Better alternatives are humidifiers. By adding moisture to the air in your surroundings, humidifiers ensure your nasal passage is filled with the moisture it needs. This will help loosen up nasal secretion and soothe your inflamed nasal passageways,” Rosmy Barrios said.

#5 Chamomile Tea Inhalations

Hack description

Boil some water, find a large bowl, and take 3–4 chamomile tea bags. Next, cut the bags and pour the tea and hot water into the bowl. Place a dish towel around the head and inhale the chamomile steam.

Scientific evidence

The healing properties of chamomile have been scientifically proven.

Medicinal chamomile has a healing, bactericidal, and soothing effect.16 So, chamomile inhalations help with mouth and respiratory tract inflammation. They clean the nasal passages and bronchi.17

Even though inhalations at home are affordable, they should be carried out with extreme caution. This is especially true for steam inhalation, with a high risk of burns.

In addition, it is difficult to regulate the dosage of the inhaled drug, which can also be harmful to health (for example, cause an allergy). That is why we recommend using special medical equipment for inhalation.

Medical opinion

“Some studies suggest that inhaling steam with chamomile can relieve some of the symptoms of the flu or cold. However, I suggest drinking chamomile tea – it will be safer and more efficient. 

However, people with a history of severe allergies, particularly to pollen, and very young children, should avoid chamomile tea,” Rosmy Barrios said.

Proven Tips for the Flu and Cold

Based on expert advice, here is a list of accessible things which will help you recover faster:

  • Salt water rinse
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Using humidifiers
  • Drinking chamomile tea
  • Eating lemons, pepper, garlic, turmeric, or ginger

None of the natural home remedies can cure the flu or cold – they may only ease the symptoms. The only way to help prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine or see your doctor, who can recommend an antiviral medication.

Conclusion

Despite the rapid development of modern medicine, traditional medicine (such as folk remedies and life hacks from TikTok) retains its popularity – 80% of the world’s population uses it.18

There are several reasons for this.

First, traditional medicine is the most accessible and convenient, as it does not require going to a doctor.

Secondly, a significant factor is the potential cost savings.

And thirdly, often, such “folk” methods of treatment are considered natural and safe, which is not always true.19

However, trying new things to make your life easier is not bad. But it is worth remembering that such advice can not only do nothing but also harm your health.

So check life hacks not in practice but with the help of scientific information and consulting a doctor.

References
  1. UK woman suffers ghastly burns after attempt to poach eggs using viral TikTok hack backfires:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/tiktok-egg-hack-burns-uk-b1883688.html
  2. Can sleeping with a potato or onion in your sock fight the flu?
    https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/verify/verify-can-sleeping-with-a-potato-or-onion-in-your-sock-fight-the-flu/65-515390381
  3. Potatoes, Nutrition and Health:
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12230-018-09705-4
  4. Reflexology. Brent A. Bauer:
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/what-is-reflexology/faq-20058139
  5. Is There Science to Support Reflexology?
    https://www.massagemag.com/science-reflexology-research-86595/
  6. 4 foods to ease cold and flu symptoms. UT Southwestern Medical Center:
    https://utswmed.org/medblog/flu-cold-remedies/
  7. Vitamin C in the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124957
  8. Viral Inhibition By Sodium Chloride. Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh:
    https://edinburghlabmed.co.uk/sites/default/files/2020-09/2019%20Viral%20Inhibition%20by%20Sodium%20Chloride.pdf
  9. Black pepper and health claims: a comprehensive treatise:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23768180/
  10. The effect of ice packs upon nasal mucosal blood flow:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1763636/
  11. A comparison between the effect of ice packs on the forehead and ice cubes in the mouth on nasal submucosal temperature:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2038651/
  12. Home Flu Cures: Bad Medicine?
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703294004574511692168806858
  13. No evidence onions can cure ailments or kill viruses:
    https://apnews.com/article/archive-fact-checking-8905130246
  14. Common Myths. Leftover Onion And Cut Onion:
    https://www.onions-usa.org/tips-onion-myths-faqs/common-myths/
  15. 31 Benefits Of Onions, Nutritional Value, And Side Effects:
    https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/amazing-health-benefits-of-onions/
  16. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.): An overview
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210003/
  17. Chamomile, Essential Chemistry for Aromatherapy (Second Edition), 2008:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chamomile
  18. WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine:
    https://www.who.int/initiatives/who-global-centre-for-traditional-medicine
  19. Folk Medicine in the Philippines: A Phenomenological Study of Health-Seeking Individuals
    https://www.ijms.info/IJMS/article/view/849/1164
HealthReporter author Nadzeya Sankovich
Written by
Nadzeya Sankovich is a professional journalist. She delivers high-quality, well-researched articles, making them clear, compelling, and easy to read. With a lifelong passion for the health and wellness industry, Nadzeya wants to make health knowledge accessible to everyone.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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