Cooking chicken in NyQuil is 'silly, unappetising and harmful', FDA warns of TikTok challenge

The FDA is warning against cooking chicken in NyQuil, a common cold and flu medication.
The FDA is warning against cooking chicken in NyQuil, a common cold and flu medication.
Getty Images/anandaBGD
  • The FDA has issued a warning against cooking chicken in Vicks NyQuil, a common cold and flu medication.
  • In their update, the health regulator says the 'challenge' can be harmful and even lead to death.
  • However, it is not clear whether a significant number of people have participated in the trend, and no hospitalisations or deaths have been reported.

Cooking chicken in Vicks NyQuil, a cold and flu medicine, is “silly and unappetising”, but, more importantly, can be very harmful and even lead to death, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned this month.

This follows the "sleepy chicken" TikTok challenge, where users are allegedly encouraged to cook chicken in NyQuil (paracetamol, dextromethorphan and doxylamine) or a similar over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medication, presumably to eat, notes the FDA. 

The video referenced by the health regulator was posted several months ago in which a TikTok user fries two chicken breasts in the blue-green medicine. According to NBC News, the video, which went viral but appeared to have been removed, shows the user flipping the meat with a hair straightener.

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"Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways," said the FDA, adding: “Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realising it.” The warning is part of a broader FDA update about social media challenges. 

Is it really a trending challenge?

While the FDA labelled it “a recent social media video challenge,” the referenced video does not use the word "challenge," as per NBC News. 

According to the New York Times, it hasn’t been established whether people were trying to cook chicken in NyQuil in significant numbers. There also haven’t been reports of hospitalisations or deaths related to NyQuil chicken.

But the FDA’s update caused NyQuil chicken to trend on Twitter Thursday. 

NyQuil’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, urged people on Twitter not to try the recipe, saying: “We do not endorse inappropriate use of our product.”

The FDA also pointed out that even if you don’t eat the chicken, inhaling NyQuil’s vapours while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body and hurt your lungs. “Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realising it,” they said.

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

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However, this is not the first time the FDA has issued a warning against social media challenges involving non-prescription medicines. In 2018, there were confirmed reports about people eating laundry detergent packets, which was spurred on by a “challenge”.

Similarly, the health regulator highlighted an earlier TikTok, “Benadryl challenge” from 2020 that urged people to take large doses of the allergy medicine to try to induce hallucinations. It reportedly caused at least one teenager’s death.

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