Nyquil Chicken Social Media Challenge: What Parents Need to Know

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October 12, 2022

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Unlock this lesson to learn what you can do to keep kids safe with the NyQuil Chicken Challenge

This NyQuil Chicken Challenge guide will help parents learn:

  • What is the NyQuil Chicken Challenge and why students are participating
  • What are the dangers of this challenge
  • Tips to keep student safe while participating in challenges

Learn why parents and educators should care about the NyQuil Chicken Challenge

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Table of Contents

The “NyQuil chicken” or “sleepy chicken” challenge is making appearances on one of students’  favorite social media platforms: TikTok.   Dangerous TikTok challenges are not new and new ones often emerge. Even though the participants seem to have fun in their TikToks with this challenge, the FDA just put out a warning that parents, educators, and students need to know about.

This SmartSocial guide will help parents learn:

1) What is the NyQuil or sleepy chicken TikTok trend

2) Why students want to recreate challenges like this

3) The potential dangers for anyone participating

4) Tips to talk with students who want to participate in dangerous social media challenges

Parent & educator video lesson

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What you’ll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What is the NyQuil Chicken Challenge?
  2. Why do students want to participate in this challenge?
  3. Why is this challenge dangerous?
  4. What can parents do?
  5. Share this resource!

What is the NyQuil or Sleepy Chicken Challenge?

TikTok warning
  • The social media challenge features chicken boiled in NyQuil cold medicine with a video posted on TikTok challenging other users to do the same
  • The trend was actually started as a joke on Twitter in 2017, but has recently gained traction on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram with the hashtag, #sleepychicken
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning regarding this particular challenge and its use of over-the-counter medication (Source: FDA)
  • TikTok is now posting its own warning with the NyQuil chicken challenge cautioning users that some challenges can be “dangerous, disturbing, or even fabricated” (Source: NPR)

Examples of NyQuil Chicken Challenge dangers in the news

Please don't cook chicken in NyQuil, the FDA asks TikTok users
"Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways," the Food and Drug Administration said. "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." - NPR
FDA says don't try the NyQuil chicken trend you saw on TikTok
The vapors that are created as the NyQuil heats up also carry many drug molecules, which can get into the body through inhalation. Inhaling these fumes can irritate the lungs and expose the individual to high doses of the drugs, which can alter brain chemistry. - Bloomberg

Why do students want to do the NyQuil chicken challenge?

  • Some students see social media trends on TikTok and want to recreate them to feel included both in person and online
  • Participating in challenges like this can offer a sense of community and connection to others who are also doing the same thing
  • It can be thrilling to do something dangerous or daring to get social media likes or shares
  • This challenge sounds silly to many but reminds us of other dangerous online challenges that have been popular with teens such as the Tide Pod Challenge and the Benadryl Challenge

Why should parents & educators care?

  • NyQuil contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine and when these cold medications are boiled it changes their properties and can expose the cook to dangerously high levels of the medication
  • Inhalation of these fumes can cause breathing problems, induce hallucinations, loss of consciousness, or seizures
TikTok social media challenge warning

What can parents & educators do?

  • Talk to your students about why they might want to participate in this challenge, the potential dangers, and strongly discourage them from doing anything with medications that aren’t directed on the label
  • Help them find a safer, yet still fun challenge to participate in on TikTok
  • If you feel that your student has been exposed to too much of the medication's vapors and is hallucinating, unresponsive, or is having breathing problems, call 911
  • To learn more about why students are participating in social media challenges read our resource, Social Media Challenges: What Students, Parents, & Educators Need to Know 
  • To find a more comprehensive list of dangerous trends and social media challenges that your student might be exposed to visit our Dangerous Social Media Challenges list


Students are exposed to many different types of social media challenges through TikTok and other popular platforms, some are positive yet some are potentially harmful trends.  The sleepy chicken challenge is a dangerous trend that students should avoid.  Talk to your students about the potential dangers and the FDA's warning of this challenge before they attempt to recreate it for themselves.

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