If you are a sex-positive (or sex-pragmatic) parent of teens, you have probably admonished them to use condoms. What you probably didn’t specifically tell them is to use them on their genitalia, not stick them up their noses.
While that doesn’t seem like a clarification parents should have to make in the safe-sex discussion, the social media trend known as the “condom snorting challenge” may have parents revising the script for their contraception talk to include proper placement of condoms.
Like the Tide Pod challenge before it, the condom snorting challenge has teens doing something inexplicably dumb for attention online. It’s not just harmless fun - it has potentially serious health consequences and teens should be discouraged from trying this.
Here’s what parents should know about the condom snorting challenge that involves snorting male condoms up one's nose:
1. What even is condom snorting?
No, condoms are not a new drug and the only high kids are chasing here are pageviews. In this challenge, kids are inserting an unwrapped condom up one nostril, then hitting record on their phone as they try to snort the latex up their nose in such a way that it threads down their throat and comes out their mouth. The videos are going viral on social media, with teens racking up likes and shares as they turn their own heads into vessels for contraceptive antics.
2. Where did this idea come from?
No one is certain what the original story behind condom snorting is. (I highly suspect alcohol was involved but that’s just speculation, so don’t quote me.) The idea has been around on the internet since about 2007 and it’s had a few viral moments, including back in 2013 when a young woman successfully snorted a condom on YouTube as a Taylor Swift song played in the background. That video was subsequently removed by the site. We don’t know why it’s having a resurgence right now but there are videos circulating on social media showing teens taking the challenges for the amusement of their followers.
3. Is this a good idea?
No. No, condoms are meant to be put on penises and inserted into vaginas or mouths. They are specifically tested on the tissue of human genitals. The lubricants and spermicides on condoms has not been tested for safety inside the nasal passages and that’s not where condoms are supposed to go.
4. What will condom snorting probably do to you?
Have you ever snorted water up your nose? Think how bad that feels. Now imagine doing that with a solid material. It would feel gross and weird and wrong. Moreover, the inside of your nose is a highly sensitive, very vascular area. There are a lot of sensitive nerve endings and tiny blood vessels right near the surface of the skin. Doing anything to irritate the nasal passages can result in discomfort and introducing foreign bodies could lead to infections. You could also damage your sense of smell if you do this kind of thing enough.
5. What’s the worst that can happen?
Well, it’s not impossible to aspirate a condom and wind up with it in your lung. This actually happened to a woman during oral sex. She sucked the condom down into her right lung and it caused pneumonia and collapsed part of her lung. Yes, she survived. But she has to spend the rest of her life knowing she had a condom in her lung.
6. What else can happen?
If you manage to avoid getting a condom in your airway, you can still swallow a condom and it can get lodged someplace it doesn’t belong in your gastrointestinal tract. Sure, there are stories about drug runners swallowing condoms full of heroin to smuggle across international borders and living to tell the tale. That doesn’t mean our bodies are equipped to process an empty latex sack. One person who accidentally swallowed a condom ended up with a piece of it blocking her appendix, resulting in an appendicitis, a potentially life threatening infection. Again, she survived but you really don’t want to be doing things that can cause obstruction of any portion of your digestive system.
7. But could you actually die from snorting condom?
Yes. You actually could. If you inhaled and the condom blocked your windpipe you could suffocate. There haven’t been reports of this happening yet, but how about everyone reading this here make a pact not to be the first, ok? Cool.
The moral of the story is, don’t stick a condom up your nose. This is one viral challenge everyone should pass up.
Rebekah Kuschmider is a DC area writer with a background in non-profit management and advocacy Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and is a contributor the book Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (an anthology, SheWrites Press, Nov. 2015). She is a cohost of the weekly political podcast The More Perfect Union.