One of the worst parts about catching a mid-summer cold is trying to fall asleep with a clogged, stuffy nose and sinus pressure. It's truly the one thing I hate the most — I can't breathe, I'm uncomfortable, and to be honest, I'd do anything to be rid of my inflamed, and now useless, nasal passages. When this happens, I usually just try to take steamy hot showers, run a humidifier in my bedroom, and drink tons of fluids to flush out my system. But recently, TikTok has tried to convince me that one weird trick is all it takes to unclog those pesky sinuses: shoving cloves of garlic up my nostrils.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Shoving anything up an already-clogged nostril may seem counterintuitive. But the TikTok videos are as convincing as they are disgusting: In pretty much all of them, people are seen ramming up a garlic clove in each nostril, keeping it there for a spell, and then slowly removing the cloves to reveal a literal waterfall of mucus (seriously, watch at your own risk) that, honestly, must feel incredibly satisfying.
One of the most viral TikTok's of this trend, however, is accompanied by a caption saying, "This is not dangerous. The garlic just clean your sinuses out." On that point, Abisola Olulade, MD, a San Diego-based physician, begs to differ. "This is not recommended and can be dangerous," she tells Refinery29. "Putting garlic up your nose is NOT recommended to deal with congestion." (Worth noting: The creator of the video mentioned is not, in fact, a doctor.)
In fact, the only reason that the garlic is apparently causing these people's runny noses to drain is that the cloves are irritating everyone's nasal passages. "It can actually worsen runny nose symptoms, which may make people falsely think it is working to help relieve a stuffy nose," Dr. Olulade says. "However, this running is actually a reaction to the irritation and to the strong smell." Plus, thrusting these cloves up your nostrils can cause trauma to the lining of your nose, which is another big no-no.
And this may sound ridiculous, but the garlic can actually get stuck up your snout if you're a little too slap happy with how you shove in the cloves — and that can earn you an embarrassing trip to the ER to have it surgically removed. To top it all off, "putting a foreign body in your nose can also cause an infection from overgrowth of bacteria," Dr. Olulade continues. "You have bacteria or viruses on your hands, and the garlic may have bacteria, which can overgrow and cause an infection." Ew!
So, please, skip shoving garlic — or anything, really — up your nose in the hopes of finding a cure for your clogged sinuses. We're begging you. Instead, Dr. Olulade says to try a saline spray to help clear out your nasal passages. You may also get relief from over-the-counter antihistamines (if allergies are behind your sniffles) or decongestants, although, "it's best to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any meds," she says, before stressing, "But don’t put garlic up your nose." In fact, in general, when you're looking for health advice, maybe try to steer clear of the TikTok trends. Your body will thank you.