We’ve all experienced a panicked, uncomfortable moment (or many) when that dreaded, all-consuming “Oh shit, I’m about to throw up” sensation seizes our body and sends us sprinting to the nearest receptacle, or sink, or patch of grass, or anyplace that is not our own shirt and pants. While we can’t promise to keep the contents of your stomach down indefinitely (if they need to come out, they eventually will), this hack can help you keep the upchuck at bay for a short time until you can get to a better place to release it.
When TikTok creator @onlyjayus posted a video describing a handful of illness preventing tricks—one of which was humming to suppress the urge to throw up—as one should be of most health-related hacks on social media, I was skeptical. But the claim was subsequently verified by Dr. Karan Rajan, an NHS surgeon at Imperial College London, who uses his platform of nearly 5 million followers to give medical tips and separate fact from medical fiction.
Why does this trick prevent or delay throwing up? According to Rajan, humming suppresses the gag reflex. As Dr. Ross Perry, medical director of the Cosmedics skin clinics, also explains to the Daily Mail, “Quite often when the gag reflex kicks in it can cause all sorts of feelings of stress and anxiety. By controlling and regulating your breathing it helps you to relax. It’s actually very difficult to gag and hum at the same time.”
Perry added other suggestions for strengthening your gag reflex, like brushing your tongue, or placing salt on it to activate the taste buds. “What method works for one might not work for another but ultimately it’s about focusing on something else rather than the gagging motion,” he added.
(By the way, another doctor-verified hack from the original video was to sniff—not ingest—rubbing alcohol when feeling nauseated.)
As a parent who has caught kiddie barf in my bare hands, and ruefully cleaned it off of carseats, floor mats, and expensive carpets, I will definitely be imparting this humming pearl of wisdom to my little ones. Whether they have the emotional wherewithal to execute the hack when the time comes remains a tenuous TBD, but I’m planning to institute dress rehearsals before future road trips.
But for us adults, this hack seems easily actionable. So the next time you’re overcome with the urge to purge, try humming—if only long enough to make it to the toilet.