New TikTok challenge helps raise awareness about blood cancer

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Ever since it was first explored in a study back in 2008, there’s been talk about whether squeezing your thumb into a fist can ‘switch off’ your gag reflex – most recently on the short-form video platform, TikTok.

Useful to know when doing a Covid swab, I guess…

Several users on the platform have amplified the theory, with @ohhkody claiming: “When you are squeezing your thumb, your brain is so focussed on the pressure that you’re creating in this area, that you forget about what’s going on here.”

Content creator Avery Flynn (@avery.flynn) also demonstrated the technique with a tutorial, explaining that individuals needed to squeeze their left thumb for five seconds and then press on their chin for five seconds at the same time. Afterwards, she said to squeeze “the skin in between your thumb and index finger” for an additional five seconds.

And apparently, some people have managed to stop themselves from gagging. @TruckerGirl77 uploaded a video of her being able to put two fingers down her throat with the hashtag “#ItWorks”, while others took to Avery’s TikTok video to claim the strategy is successful.

“What it actually turned off my gag reflex,” wrote one user, in all caps.

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Another commented: “Okay wait why did this actually turn off my gag reflex though?”

“I literally just stuck my finger down my throat,” yelled a third, again in all caps.

A fourth, meanwhile, was finding it all rather hilarious, writing: “Y’all this is called placebo effect and I’m crying at these comments.”

The aforementioned 2008 study, carried out by three researchers at Miami University in Ohio, found that “the trigger point of the gag reflex moved posteriorly in all [36] subjects as a result of pressure to the palm point”.

The academics administered force to all study participants using a worn hand pressure device, and their conclusion stated they managed to “introduce a treatment involving the simulation of a pressure point that consistently altered the gag reflex trigger”.

Yet Dr Brad McKay, a GP from Sydney, isn’t entirely convinced, telling online outlet Junkee: “Pressing on your thumb and chin to ‘switch off’ your gag reflex is basically an elaborate placebo, which may work as a mild distraction and trick some people into relaxing while they eat a banana.

“Overall the TikTok method is a safe, cheap, quick, easy and totally useless therapy.”

While we’re glad a medical professional has offered up his two cents, past experience of viral TikTok challenges suggest this is another one to approach with caution – especially when there’s a risk of gagging.

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