When you thought TikTok couldn’t get weirder than the recent NyQuil Chicken trend, the viral social media app topped itself.
Some users are now claiming that shoving potatoes into your socks and leaving them against your feet overnight helps treat the flu.
In one video from November 2022, a mother who touts “natural remedies” claims that putting potato slices into her kids’ socks and leaving them overnight removes all the “toxins” associated with the flu.
After a night of leaving the potato slices in her children’s socks, she shows how much darker in color they are in the morning, claiming the slices have removed the “toxins.”
The video went viral, amassing more than six million views and nearly 300,000 likes since then. Other TikTokers — desperate from being sick with the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or COVID-19 this season — have posted videos claiming the potato sock hack worked for them.
Fortunately, not all TikTokers are impressed.
Many comments on the original video point out that potatoes naturally change color when exposed to air.
“And if that don’t work… you gotta call a yambulance,” one user joked.
Dr. Tommy Martin, a physician TikTok influencer who has more than two million followers on the platform, posted a reaction video to the trend pointing out that potato socks won’t work to treat the flu. Instead, Martin encouraged people to vaccinate their children against the flu.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the medical evidence that potatoes in your socks can cure the flu is pretty much nonexistent. The so-called “natural cure” likely has origins as a folk remedy dating back to the Middle Ages, when people didn’t have full understanding of how viruses and bacteria worked, according to Healthline.
Additionally, Healthline cautions people against trying the trend on children, as it may cause skin irritation or could be problematic if the child has an allergic reaction.
The trend gained traction as the ‘tripledemic’ hit the U.S., with the nation seeing a severe flu season earlier than expected. Flu hospitalizations rose to the highest level in over a decade as parents also grappled with high cases of RSV in children – and COVID-19 always looming in the background.
The potato socks phenomenon also isn’t the first trend that promotes health misinformation online and likely won’t be the last. The dangerous Benadryl challenge, sunscreen contouring and dubious chlorophyll trends have all come before it.
“My mind always goes to, what’s next? What’s down the pipe?” Jeffrey Blevins, a professor in the Department of Journalism and the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Cincinnati, told MM+M in a previous interview about TikTok health trends. “I encourage people not to think of these things as a one-off — like, ‘Thank goodness we’re past NyQuil Chicken now.’ No, there’s a pattern of medical misinformation that could be pretty [damaging long-term].”
With that in mind, try sticking to drinking fluids and getting plenty of rest as a flu treatment instead of potato socks.