In the age of the YouTube star, when viral fame is equivalent to money, some people will do anything to make a buck. Teens are especially misled in this regard, resorting to stunts to become internet famous, some of whom are dumber than others. The latest, the “Condom Snorting Challenge,” has earned its place alongside the Tide Pod stunt as a teen trend that gives doctors a headache.
The challenge is self-explanatory: Snort a condom through your nostril hard enough that it comes out through the back of your throat; once you pull out the entire thing, you win. But, of course, everyone loses.
“Condom snorting is definitely not a good idea,” writes Dr. Jennifer Villwock, a University of Kansas Medical Center assistant professor of otolaryngology, in an email to Inverse. “Do not recommend!” Here, she explains the worst possible outcomes of taking part in the trend.
Condom Stuck in Your Lungs
“Worst case scenario would be for the condom to be completely inhaled and aspirated into the lungs,” she says. As anyone who’s ever hocked a loogie or swallowed post-nasal drip knows, the nasal cavity and the throat are intimately connected — that’s why the condoms have been coming out of teens’ throats the way they do. But, obviously, there’s another route for the stuff that goes into your nose. What Villwock considers the “worst possible outcome” is that the condom will go the way air goes: straight to your lungs.
“This could cause blockage of the trachea (the main breathing pipe) or further down and prevent air from getting into the lungs,” she says. “If air is completely blocked from both lungs, this could be deadly.”
Getting the condom out of your lungs would not be easy, requiring a bronchoscopy as well as special instruments to pull the condom out.
Vomit Getting into Your Lungs
That’s not the only way snorting a condom could mess with your breathing, says Villwock. Many of the Condom Snorting Challenge videos show people gagging, and she says that this might cause them to vomit, which in turn might be sucked into the airway. The gag reflex exists to prevent unwanted objects — anything that’s not food or drink — from entering the throat. Condoms are definitely one of those things.
“This is less likely to completely block their airway, but vomit is very irritating and inflammatory!” she notes. “This can cause a bad pneumonia.”
Damaging Your Nasal Passages
Then, of course, there’s the fact that snorting a condom up the nose hurts like hell; that pain is caused by injury to the sensitive walls of the nasal passages. “The lining is delicate, and the condom could cause damage as it moves through the nasal passages,” she says. There’s always a risk that the condom will break, leaving bits of latex and streaks of spermicide in your nose, which could get lodged. Getting a nasal endoscopy — getting a telescope or camera stuck up the nose — would be your only way out of that mess.
Viral fame, somehow, just doesn’t seem worth it.