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  • The social media platform TikTok has spawned numerous video challenges. In 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about a new challenge that involves cooking chicken in NyQuil. Here’s what you should know about this dangerous trend.

    What Is NyQuil Chicken?

    The term NyQuil chicken refers to a chicken breast that has been marinated in NyQuil

    NyQuil is an over-the-counter cough and cold medicine. It’s used to ease symptoms of the common cold, flu, allergies, and breathing conditions like bronchitis and sinusitis. The drug comes in a blue liquid form, which gives NyQuil chicken a blue tinge.

    Some TikTok users have posted videos of themselves cooking and eating NyQuil chicken. These videos sometimes include the terms “NyQuil chicken challenge” or “sleepy chicken challenge.” No matter what you call it, cooking NyQuil chicken poses serious health risks

    Effects & Dangers Of NyQuil Chicken

    According to the FDA, boiling NyQuil can make the drug more concentrated and powerful. That means NyQuil chicken is more likely to cause negative side effects than regular NyQuil

    In addition, while the chicken cooks, you may accidentally inhale the drug’s vapors. That means you could experience side effects even if you don’t eat the chicken. 

    The side effects of NyQuil are caused by the drug’s three active ingredients: acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine. 

    Side Effects Of Acetaminophen

    Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It’s often sold under the brand name Tylenol. Possible side effects include:

    • nausea and vomiting
    • stomach cramps
    • red, peeling, or blistering skin
    • itching, rash, or hives
    • swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, throat, hands, lower legs, feet, or ankles
    • trouble breathing or swallowing

    In addition, consuming a large amount of acetaminophen can cause severe liver damage and even liver failure. Common signs of acetaminophen-related liver damage include loss of appetite, sweating, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. 

    Side Effects Of Dextromethorphan

    Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant sold under brand names like Delsym and Robitussin. Possible side effects include:

    • drowsiness
    • dizziness
    • anxiety
    • irritability
    • nausea and vomiting
    • constipation 
    • stomach pain
    • vision changes
    • slowed breathing 

    In rare cases, the drug can also cause hallucinations. 

    Side Effects Of Doxylamine

    Doxylamine is an antihistamine (allergy medication). It’s also sometimes used to treat insomnia. Possible side effects include:

    • drowsiness
    • headache
    • excitement
    • anxiety
    • nausea
    • dry mouth, nose, or throat
    • vision changes
    • trouble urinating

    Some people also experience more severe side effects, including trouble breathing, confusion, and seizures. 

    Overdose

    According to the manufacturers of NyQuil, you should consume no more than 120 milliliters of the medication per day. When you use it as a chicken marinade, it’s very easy to overdose. Common symptoms of a NyQuil overdose include:

    • dry mouth
    • enlarged pupils
    • blurry vision
    • trouble breathing
    • heartbeat changes
    • hallucinations
    • trouble urinating
    • severe anxiety
    • extreme drowsiness
    • extreme dizziness
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness

    If you think you or someone you know is overdosing on NyQuil, call 911 right away. You can also contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222. When left untreated, a NyQuil overdose may be life-threatening.

    How To Protect Your Child From NyQuil Chicken

    Most people who participate in dangerous social media video challenges like the NyQuil chicken challenge are children, teenagers, and young adults. This is probably because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to engage in risky behaviors. 

    In addition, many young people assume that over-the-counter drugs like NyQuil are harmless. 

    As a parent or caregiver, you can  protect your child from NyQuil chicken by taking these steps:

    Have An Honest Discussion

    When your child is in a good mood, start a conversation about social media trends and the dangerous misuse of medications. Explain that you are not trying to scare or judge your child. Instead, you just want to help them navigate social media in a safe way. 

    Discuss the fact that although online challenges may seem fun, they can be life-threatening. Ensure your child understands that all drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, can have serious side effects when misused. 

    Store Medications Safely

    Store all over-the-counter and prescription medications away from children. If possible, keep them up high and in locked containers. Also, keep a log of all medications in the house so you’ll know if any bottles go missing. 

    Model Responsible Behavior 

    Children often mimic their parents. That’s why you should follow all instructions that come with prescription and over-the-counter drugs. 

    Talk to your children about the importance of reading these instructions and double-checking doses. Never use any substance in a manner not recommended by your healthcare provider.

    If you or someone you love misuses drugs, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our substance abuse and addiction treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay healthy.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    Food and Drug Administration - A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Medicines
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Acetaminophen
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Dextromethorphan
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Doxylamine

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on November 14, 2022
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