(Bloomberg) -- US health regulators are warning about the dangers of a new TikTok challenge that has teens cooking chicken with the cold medication NyQuil.
Most Read from Bloomberg
The so-called “sleepy chicken” trend involves cooking chicken breasts, marinated in NyQuil, in a pan. Nyquil contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and doxylamine, and boiling medication can change the concentration and properties of the ingredients, the FDA warned.
“Even if you don’t eat the chicken, inhaling the medication’s vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body,” the statement explains.
The trend is the latest example of how the power of social media can influence people to eat unsafe products, following fads that had some children eating Tide Pods or consuming large quantities of Benadryl to get a high. The FDA, concerned about the increase in dangerous health outcomes from online challenges, released an advisory last week urging parents to keep even over-the-counter medications away from kids and educate them on the consequences of following social media advice.
“The FDA actively monitors social media trends in efforts to combat the spread of online misinformation,” an FDA official said in an email, urging consumers and health professionals to report any incidents. “The agency will continue to prioritize the safety of consumers and regulated products.”
Inhaling NyQuil fumes could cause breathing issues, hallucinations, loss of consciousness or even seizures, said Bill Sullivan, professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“The vapors that are created as the NyQuil heats up also carry many drug molecules, which can get into the body through inhalation,” he said. “Inhaling these fumes can irritate the lungs and expose the individual to high doses of the drugs, which can alter brain chemistry.”
Andy Hirneisen, senior food safety educator at Penn State extension, warned that undercooking meat is already a danger for consumers.
“We always follow the label, and this is definitely an off-label trend that’s happening,” he said. “There's already a microbiological risk and adding in this medicine would be adding a chemical risks as well.”
Social media challenges can be particularly dangerous for young people because they are fueled by peer pressure, the FDA said.
For its part, TikTok has previously banned certain hashtags associated with dangerous fads. Search results for “NyQuil chicken” have been deleted on TikTok. Instead, users see a safety warning that reads, “Some online challenges can be dangerous, disturbing or even fabricated.” Searches for “sleepy chicken” or a misspelled version of chicken do still produce results.
“Content that promotes dangerous behavior has no place on TikTok,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “This is not trending on our platform, but we will remove content if found and strongly discourage anyone from engaging in behavior that may be harmful to themselves or others.”
(Updates with possible health impacts in sixth paragraph.)
Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.