Are you seeking medical advice from TikTok? This doctor has some advice for you

When you feel sick, there is a new place to seek medical advice.

That’s right, people scroll 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.

Although it sounds painful and a little weird, the TikTok user swears it works. The one where you put potatoes on your feet is simply ridiculous; judging by the comments, most followers seem to agree.

Some of the clips seem convincing enough – like the user who said that placing onions around your house will draw bacterial agents out of the air.

I also liked the one where you put an ice cube in your mouth, push it up with your tongue, as a way to clear a stuffy nose. In fact, I tried it myself recently. Being out in the cold made me feel a little full, but I felt like my stuffy nose was actually getting worse. I wondered if I was doing it wrong.

Unfortunately, as medical expert Dr. Rosmy Barrios says, most of these home remedies don’t work. In my view, they can at least achieve the goal of making us think about how to deal with symptoms instead of just suffering in silence. The only caveat, according to Dr. Barrios, is that sucking on a lemon can actually provide some vitamin C to help fight a cough.

For the most part, Dr. Barrios said the videos don’t really address any real ailments.

“In theory, sucking on an ice cube could ease the symptoms of a stuffy nose by constricting the blood vessels; but cold air prevents white blood cells from reaching the mucous membrane, making it harder for the body to fight bacteria and viruses,” she said in the article. “A better natural home remedy is to drink fluids to stay hydrated. It will keep your body temperature in check and will also help reduce nasal congestion and swelling.”

It made me wonder why we turn to social media apps like TikTok for medical advice in the first place.

One reason may be the sheer immediacy of the apps. We can search for the word “cough” or “congestion” and scroll through some videos. Meanwhile, calling your local clinic can leave you waiting on hold forever, driving to the doctor, and then…waiting even longer.

It is also an illusion of trust. When we see a video on a popular social media app, the first assumption we make is that there is some value or support to the claims. Conspiracy theories often thrive online because, we believe, if the platform allowed this material to exist, it must have some validity. We have been conditioned to accept things at face value.

I am not criticizing the users for posting these videos as they seem sincere and maybe there is an added benefit or the solution 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 — it can’t hurt to try something. Maybe the one where you put potatoes in your socks will give you the feeling that you are taking control of the problem. Although that is a completely false assumption.

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