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The FDA Is Accused of Making the Nyquil Chicken Challenge a Trend

Wesam Abo Marq Wesam Abo Marq
Food & Beverages
26th September 2022
The FDA Is Accused of Making the Nyquil Chicken Challenge a Trend
Tristan Depew told NPR that his tweet was a joke (Twitter).

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning over the "recent social media video challenge" that received extensive media attention, interest in NyQuil chicken seems to have greatly increased.

What Is NyQuil And Its Risks?

NyQuil is a popular over-the-counter drug that tames down the symptoms of the flu, the common cold, and other diseases and allergies that are comparable to them. NyQuil temporarily relieves symptoms such as coughs, headaches, runny and stuffy noses, sore throats, fevers, and sneezing. Additionally, it aids restful sleep for those experiencing cold symptoms.

The majority of NyQuil's side effects are minor and don't require medical attention. If taken appropriately, NyQuil is risk-free. The most common side effects include blurred vision, light-headedness, tiredness, nausea, anxiety, and stomach pain.

Cooking Chicken With NyQuil 

Videos have appeared online pushing people to cook chicken with cough and cold remedies like NyQuil, which contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine.

The hashtag #sleepychicken has over 1.3 million videos on TikTok, with many viewers reacting to the cooking process. Following the FDA's declaration on Tuesday, videos of individuals preparing NyQuil chicken have been extensively criticized online. NyQuil was trending on Twitter after the FDA's statement.

On September 15, the FDA issued a statement alerting the public to social media videos urging people to cook chicken in NyQuil: "The challenge sounds silly and unappetizing—and it is. But it could also be very unsafe.

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Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways. 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. It could also hurt your lungs."

Data from TikTok that was provided to BuzzFeed News shows that after the FDA's statement and subsequent media coverage, searches for NyQuil chicken considerably increased, going from five on September 14 to almost 7,000 by September 21.

Through routine drug safety monitoring, the FDA made a statement to the Guardian that it had "observed social media trends promoting dangerous misuse of medications" when it issued the consumer update.

"The FDA took a certain step to raise awareness, but has it gone too far to be helpful at this point?" Corey Hannah Basch, a professor of public health at William Paterson University, told the New York Times. "Most likely because it’s just brought many people to think about something they were not thinking about before."

Nyquil Chicken Was Meant To Be a Joke

It appears that the term "NyQuil chicken" first appeared on Twitter in 2017, when user @trjstn posted a picture of NyQuil bottles next to some azure-colored chicken along with the joking caption, "If she makes you nyquil chicken.... do NOT let her go."

Tristan Depew told NPR that his tweet was intended as a joke.

"I have seen it on TikTok, which is a bit more concerning because the audience of my original tweet — which I do think started it all — is notably older," Depew said. "There is something to be said about the concern that the children over on TikTok might not treat this with as much caution."

Depew added a remark regarding the FDA's late warning and its responsibility in spurring the trend, "Personally, seeing that this was only now addressed over five years later, it's just another example of the FDA's dangerous lack of urgency and oversight when it comes to the public's health and well-being."

TikTok’s Warning Against Online Challenges

According to a spokesman for TikTok, searches for "NyQuil chicken" have been redirected to a warning against online challenges since January 2022.

"Content that promotes dangerous behavior has no place on TikTok. 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," the company said in a statement.

Social Media Users’ Reaction to NyQuil Chicken Challenge

Some social media users took the FDA’s warning against the social media challenge very satirically. The challenge has gone viral as a trending topic on Twitter, with many tweets and memes making fun of people who take the FDA’s warning seriously.

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Other social media users blamed the FDA for encouraging people to cook chicken with NyQuil. 

Misbar’s Sources

The Guardian

US Food and Drug Administration

Addiction Center

Buzzfeed News


Join TechCrunch

USA Today

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