With millions of people preparing to travel during the upcoming holiday season, social media is rife with tips and tricks for bringing along prescription meds.
Earlier this year, TikToker @xxiamkristinxx posted a video under the hashtag #MedicationHack, in which she details a hack for when people are traveling with medication.
In the video, she displays a prescription pill bottle, then instructs viewers to get a Tic Tac container.
“Remove the [Tic Tac] label, take the lid off, and add your medication,” the text on the video reads. “Then just put the lid back on. Now, you can dispense your medication. And it’s a lot smaller than the pill bottles. Just ask the pharmacist for an extra label.”
Sure, this may seem like an easy trick for when you’re compartmentalizing items during travel.
However, a quick read through the comments signals a bigger problem with this particular “medication hack.”
“In many countries you must have the original packing and prescription [of the medication],” one commenter warns.
Another notes that some medication is light sensitive — hence the orange-colored pharmacy pill bottles — and putting it into a Tic Tac container could be risky. Yet another points out that a child will think it’s candy, deeming the suggestion “very unsafe.”
“Hey guys, depends on the place, but in many states it’s illegal to have any (even Tylenol) medication that isn’t in original packaging,” another commenter wrote. “So be careful!”
“I work at a pharmacy and we are prohibited from dispensing a label for medications if it is not placed on a pharmacy bottle/box,” another commenter warns.
Still, the video garnered hundreds of likes and thousands of views, as so many pieces of questionable health advice on the app does.
When you meander through #MedicationHack, you quickly realize that there are far more egregious takes on medication tricks than Tic Tac containers.
One video with more than 35,000 likes claims to know “5 tricks to make your pills kick in faster.”
The first tip, the video says, is to “poke holes in each [pill] side before swallowing it,” as this will make it “dissolve twice as fast.”
The second claim is to “lay down on your right side,” which will make the pill “fall right next to the opening of your intestines.”
If that doesn’t sound worrisome enough, the TikToker then suggests chugging water, eating food and walking or running around a bit to make the pill “dissolve faster.”
Even without expert input, commenters already seem to notice much of this sounds like misinformation.
“Just do what the [medication] box says, please do not listen to this,” a top comment says. Others point out that certain medications are meant to dissolve and release slowly, noting that tampering with that process could be dangerous.
Other #medicationhacks include tricks people have developed to get their children to take medication.
One video with 100,000 likes shows the process of crushing up a pill, putting it into a chocolate mixture covered in sprinkles and tossing it in the refrigerator to cool. The resulting candy would make it easier, in theory, for a child to take their medication.
Still, there are downsides to suggestions like this.
“Keep out of reach of kids!!” the caption reads. “These look DELICIOUS and kids will want to eat these. It’s still medicine and overdoses are easy. Be safe!” The creator of the video suggests only making one or two candies at a time, to prevent the risk of overdose.
Other #medicationhacks include ordering pill trackers on Amazon to paste onto pill bottles to help remind you to take your medication, cutting the tips of pacifiers and putting syringes behind them to help your kid take medicine.
Nurse-inspired “syringe hacks” have found success on TikTok, with one viral video with nearly 200,000 likes showing an HCP crushing pills into a mixture in a syringe in a 30-second process.
Nurses commented on the post, noting “As a nurse I can say that TikTok has taught me more than nursing school.”
“Just be careful to not pull on the plunger too hard because it can come out and spill your med all over the floor,” another adds. “I speak from experience.”
Other videos show people crushing pills using a syringe hack and dissolving them in fluids, noting they saw it on TikTok and wanted to try it.
“Consult with your doctor before crushing any pills,” one TikToker commented as a disclaimer.
Despite publicly expressed concerns over the efficacy of these ideas and effects on patient safety, #medicationhacks appear to go on and on endlessly.
One video with nearly 6 million views features a woman showcasing a hack to alleviate sore throat. It involves dipping your hands in salt water and squeezing your inflamed tonsils to “alleviate” the pain.
Some are more legitimate than others. One viral video with nearly 2 million likes, posted by ER doctor Dr. Voon, provides two easy products for dealing with nausea and vomiting — inhaled isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and dramamine.
Tith the array of questionable medical trends and hacks on the site, public health experts urge TikTokers to remain wary and avoid jumping on trends that involve tampering with medication — especially when around children.
Returning to the Tic Tac travel hack, pharma packaging experts have raised caution, noting that carrying pills in a non-designated container can be risky for a number of reasons.
First, travel with certain medications always warrants caution — even if they’re in a regular pill bottle.
“Depending on your destination, you could be subject to increased scrutiny from customs officials… confiscation… and imprisonment,” a Harvard Global Support Services blog post notes. The blog post suggests to keep all medications in their original and labeled containers, and especially not to combine various meds into one container.
Medical experts likely feel that countering misinformation on TikTok is often a game of “whack-a-mole” – once one trend is addressed, a new one has been born.
While the Tic Tac travel hack may not have gone as viral as others, a quick review of Tic Tac pill content on the site reveals that a whole other trend — involving pranking people by replacing the pills in your pill bottle with Tic Tacs and swallowing the mints all in one move — has gone viral this year.
You probably don’t have to wonder why that’s not a safe one, either.