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Don’t Cook Your Chicken in NyQuil, Even if You See It on TikTok: FDA Warns

Person cooking in kitchen

We all love a good TikTok hack (especially when it comes to simple beauty tips, relaxation techniques or a spicy reading recommendation), but a cooking challenge that’s gaining tracking on TikTok could be so dangerous that US health regulators have a warning: don’t cook your chicken in cold medication

Related: What is Pink Sauce — and why is everyone talking about it?

What is the ‘sleepy chicken’ challenge?

Cold medicine? Yes, cold medicine. The “sleepy chicken” challenge — which isn’t exactly new, but has been getting attention on TikTok recently — is basically just marinating chicken breasts in over-the-counter (OTC) cold medication like NyQuil, and then cooking them in a pan.

See also: TikTok has people drinking a gallon of water a day, but this is how much you actually need.

Why is the ‘sleepy chicken’ challenge dangerous?

The problem with this, according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warning issued last week, is that — more than just being super gross, “silly and unappetizing” — cooking food in OTC medicine is unsafe in multiple ways. 

Firstly, NyQuil contains medications including acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and doxylamine — and boiling a medication can change its properties (cooking medicine can, for example, make it more concentrated). “Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it,” the FDA statement points out.

Additionally, even if you don’t actually eat the chicken, “inhaling the medication’s vapours while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body,” the FDA statement explains. 

Bill Sullivan, professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, further outlined some of the potential risks of inhaling NyQuil fumes to Bloomberg, citing breathing trouble, hallucinations, loss of consciousness or seizures as potential health issues that could arise.

“The vapors that are created as the NyQuil heats up also carry many drug molecules, which can get into the body through inhalation,” Sullivan said in Bloomberg. “Inhaling these fumes can irritate the lungs and expose the individual to high doses of the drugs, which can alter brain chemistry.”


See also: The healthy grocery checklist: 20 foods to include to maintain your health.

Why are health regulators worried about social media challenges?

While these potentially dangerous food challenges may seem easy to avoid, young people may be especially vulnerable to them.

“Social media trends and peer pressure can be a dangerous combination to your children and their friends, especially when involving misusing medicines,” the FDA statement explains.

While Bloomberg points out that TikTok has banned certain hashtags linked with dangerous fads in the past, that doesn’t eliminate the risk — hence the FDA flag.

“The FDA actively monitors social media trends in efforts to combat the spread of online misinformation,” an FDA spokesperson told TODAY via email. “The agency will continue to prioritize the safety of consumers and regulated products, and will issue warnings and/or consumer safety advice when/where most appropriate to keep consumers safe.”

The long and short of it? Be wary of potentially harmful social media trends — especially when it comes to anything you may ingest.

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