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Posted in Our Blog on September 29, 2022
The Internet, and specifically social media has so many positive aspects. It can keep us informed. Keep us connected. Keep us entertained. And sometimes it can keep us safe.
That said, social media apps can also lead to peer pressure and the ever-present drive to “go viral” or accumulate “likes.” This is where things start to turn toward dangerous.
Some of these challenges are harmless and designed to create awareness such as the ALS ice bucket challenge – where people dump a bucket of ice water over their head declaring a commitment to donate to the cause and tag others to do the same. Some can even promote fun family activities such as the mannequin challenge – where someone walks around the room recording the family frozen in place in the middle of daily life activities.
However, others are dangerous and even life-threatening. The Tide pod challenge had teens consuming laundry detergent. The “black out” challenge involved a choking game. Then there was the “cinnamon” challenge and the “salt and ice” challenge. The list goes on and on.
The newest unsafe challenge involves cooking with over the counter cold medicine. This “Sleepy Chicken” challenge has prompted the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to generate and distribute a warning letter advising the dangers of cooking with cold medications such as NyQuil and Benadryl.
Sleepy Chicken Challenge
The Sleepy Chicken Challenge encourages people to cook chicken in cold medicine. Most of these social media videos include NyQuil – an over-the-counter nighttime cold medication containing acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine, but other cough and cold medications have been popping up in videos.
This Sleepy Chicken recipe looks like a joke and totally unappetizing; but if consumed, could be very unsafe.
In addition to consuming more of the medication than recommended on the dosage instructions, other hazards can result from the cooking process. Boiling a medication can make it more concentrated not to mention applying heat could change the properties in other ways.
Even if the challenge is done in fun and not consumed, it can still pose a health threat. Vapors produced while cooking can enter the body through the lungs, causing damage among other potentially harmful effects when high levels of the drugs begin to circulate in the body.
FDA Warning Letter
The FDA warning letter indicates the current threat related to cooking with cold medication along with other warnings about unsafe social media challenges. A previous TikTok challenge involving taking large doses of the allergy medicine diphenhydramine, commonly known as the brand name Benadryl to induce hallucinations and record the reaction.
The FDA recommends “keeping over-the-counter and prescription drugs away from children, and lock up these medications to prevent accidental overdose.” Additional advice includes a frank discussion with your children about the “dangers of misusing drugs and how social media trends can lead to real, sometimes irreversible, damage.”
The warning letter also indicates actions to take if you feel that your child may have overdosed on a medication.
“If you believe your child has taken too much medication and is hallucinating, can’t be awakened, has had or is having a seizure, has trouble breathing, has collapse, or is showing other signs of drug misuse, call 911 to get immediate medical attention. Or contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or online.”
Why Are Teens More Susceptible to Social Media Challenges?
You might be thinking, why would these kids do this. If it seems that teenagers are more vulnerable to social media challenges, it is because they developmentally are.
The brain continues to develop for much longer than you may think. The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that handles rational thought, is not even fully developed until the mid-20’s. This can explain the more impulsive behaviors teens have due to acting without considering all of the potential consequences. Social media thrives on this impulsive behavior.
How Social Media Amplifies This Behavior
Social media can be a way to keep in touch, but more often than not it is a form of entertainment. The more entertaining, the more people pay attention to what is being done. In this environment, the more outrageous the idea or concept, the bigger the reward/likes/comments. This, accompanied by potentially impulsive behavior can be stoked by gratification via likes/comments and other attention or peer pressure and what the kids call FOMO or “fear of missing out.”
Kids may not consider the potential damage to throat or airways from consuming laundry detergent, risk of seizure or coma from overconsumption of diphenhydramine/Benadryl, or poisonous aspect of cooking with NyQuil in the chase to get more “friends”, likes and comments than a classmate or stranger on the Internet.
Helpful Tips to Bridge Communication with Your Teens
HealthyChildren.org – a website supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips for parents to help your child think through these trends.
Open Lines of Communication
The first step is to talk to your kids. Start the conversation. Ask then if they have heard about any crazy challenges. “Encourage them to see if they can surprise you.” Get their opinion – ask them what they think about the challenge. “This helps build the skill of judging risk by talking about what could happen to someone who takes this challenge.”
Help Them Work Through Risks
If your child mentions interest in participating in a challenge, it is helpful to encourage them to first think through each step of the challenge. Use open-ended questions to consider the worst outcome that could occur from doing this challenge. “Ask them to think about why they would do it, and if it’s worth it.” Are the likes and comments worth time in the emergency room or potential long-term health problems.
Follow Your Teens
“Friend”, “Follow”, or “Like” your kids on all social media platforms they use. “Staying in touch on their preferred communication platforms can help you keep in touch with what goes on in their day-to-day lives.” Make it a condition that in order to have these accounts, they have to “friend” you in exchange.
Make it About Someone Else
Despite your efforts to be non-judgmental and open, sometimes kids are more willing to talk about activities of peers than about themselves. Ask questions about school trends, fads, and their friends and you may get more open answers. “No matter what, it is important to keep the lines of communication open and avoid passing judgement.” It is more important to discuss the dangers of certain choices and activities to be stored for future problem-solving skills than to intimidate them into closing up.
Put Sleepy Chicken to Bed
Hopefully this unsafe food and drug trend is put to bed soon. Serious and long-term consequences are not worth the temporary attention. What other viral challenges do you think are unsafe?
By: Heather Van Tassell