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Viral TikTok Thumb Trick That Supposedly 'Turns Off' Your Gag Reflex Sparks Debate

The controversial technique was first explored in a 2008 study at the Miami University in Ohio.

Guy describing the viral thumb trick to "turn off" the gag reflex
@ohhkody/TikTok

We're all about life hacks and looking for ways to make adulting a little bit easier, and our time spent receiving medical attention is no exception.

When our nose or mouth is being swabbed for medical testing, or when we're having dental work done, most of us have a tendency to gag, but apparently, there's a trick that can be used that helps some of the population turn that urge to gag "off."

According to a study that began back in 2008, published byThe Journal of the American Dental Association, applying pressure to the palm can create enough distraction in the brain to alleviate or even "turn off" the gag reflex for sensitive patients.

The study was then put to good use on social media when TikToker @avery.flynn showed herself able to drop long objects into her mouth without choking. When viewers asked how she did it, she showed a slowed-down version of squeezing her thumb without offering further explanation.

You can see that video here:

@avery.flynn

#dontactuallydothis #itsajoke

Another TikToker, @ohhkody, dug a little more into the actual science behind Avery's trick, pointing out that she was likely distracting herself enough to prevent her gag reflex from kicking in.

He then demonstrated his own ability to ignore his gag reflex while squeezing his thumb.

You can watch the video here:

@ohhkody

Reply to @bimbobea this is for science only 🥸 #datingtips #datingadvice #positions #kissing

Some were astonished to see that the hack worked.

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

But others were certain it was a placebo effect or wouldn't work for them.

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

@ohhkody

It should also be noted that in Avery Flynn's video, the two hashtags she used were, "Don't actually do this," and "It's a joke," which offers some validity to viewers who thought the video was inexplicably faked or edited to look real.

One doctor stepped in to settle the score.

In an interview with Junkee, Dr. Brad McKay from Sydney, Australia, explained that since everyone has a gag reflex, it can't be "turned off," but it can be modulated.

The gag reflex is typically caused by being overstimulated, often by feelings of not being able to breathe or choking on an object. When pressure is applied to an acupuncture point, many of which are contained in our hands, there will essentially be an override on that sensation of being overstimulated, causing the gag reflex to relax.

While there's a possibility that all of those viewers were joking and playing along with a social media "gag," it seems that this trick might actually be enough of a hack to work for some people, at least in the sense of a placebo effect.

After all, there are still people who firmly believe that pinching the skin between their thumb and forefinger will stop a headache, and if that trick works for some, it seems plausible enough that this would work for some people, as well.