Fort Worth, Texas. When a 14-year-old girl took 14 pills of Benadryl in the middle of the night, her older sister called their grandmother for help, wanting to avoid trouble with her parents.
“It was scary. She had broken sentences, hallucinations. Her resting heart rate was 199, ”the girl’s mother later said, according to the Cook Children’s Health Care System, where the teenager was treated in 2020.
Two other teens were also being treated for a Benadryl overdose in Cook Children at the time after watching an online video on the popular social networking platform TikTok. A year and a half later, teenagers in Tarrant County are still in hospital after an overdose of Benadryl.
Two overdose incidents in Tarrant County high schools in late January raised concerns that the TikTok problem could spread again.
On Jan. 28, five Shannon High School students in Halt City received a drug overdose and two were hospitalized. The day before, four students at Fort Worth Polytechnic High School were hospitalized due to similar symptoms of overdose after taking the medication. Both school districts declined to comment on the medication used and the reasons for the overdose.
What is the Benadryl Challenge?
Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, is a common allergy medicine. It treats symptoms such as rash, itching, watery eyes, cough, runny nose and sneezing. The Benadryl challenge, which began in a trend in TikTok in 2020, encourages teens to take excessive amounts as nonsense.
“Each of these patients said they got an idea from a video in TikTok that claims users can get high and hallucinate if they take a dozen or more allergy pills,” Cook Children said in 2020.
Although the social networking platform is popular for memes, dance competitions, beauty tutorials and culinary videos, the Benadryl challenge is not the only dangerous trend.
28% of TikTok users under the age of 18 may face the latest trends, such as “sleeping chicken” when users cook chicken in cough syrup, or “blackout”, which encourages users to hold their breath until they lose consciousness.
“These problems, they’re not new,” said Lisbeth Patty, health education manager at the North Texas Poison Center. “Today you will see them, tomorrow you will see them. They are unlikely to leave, they attract your attention.
Is Benadryl a popular challenge in North Texas?
The North Texas Poison Control Hotline often receives calls about Benadryl overdoses, some of which are related to the TikTok problem.
“When you start to see these trending issues of TikTok or social media, we actually tend to see an increase in volume and calls around this particular substance,” Patty said.
It is more common among young teens, Patty says.
MedStar responded to an overdose incident at Shannon High School. One firefighter who was at the scene found a screenshot from a TikTok call on the teen’s phone, said Matt Zawadski, an ambulance spokesman.
“There was a sign that there may have been a problem with TikTok related to taking over-the-counter medications,” Zavadsky said. “We’ve heard that it encourages people to take Benadryl.”
Why is this challenge spreading?
Patty said children are particularly susceptible to online problems like this.
“Their brains are still evolving, and much of their brains, which help them think and make logical decisions or non-impulsive decisions, are not yet fully developed,” she said. “Therefore, young children and adolescents are more likely to make riskier decisions because their brains are still in their infancy. That may be part of the reason why they are more concerned with these issues because they do not weigh the benefits and risks. “
Another reason is peer pressure. Patty says parents need to acknowledge that it exists and emphasize that their children are not alone.
“One of the points of view that younger children have is that because it’s available without a prescription because it’s not from my doctor, it’s not harmful,” Patty said. “But some over-the-counter medications can be even more harmful than prescribed.”
Parents should tell their children that over-the-counter or prescription drugs can be equally dangerous. Tell them that drugs are considered drugs that change the way your body works, Patty believes.
What are the health risks?
Johnson & Johnson makes Benadryl. In a statement to Star-Telegram, the company said: “This online call is extremely alarming, dangerous and must be stopped immediately.”
In September 2020, the Office of Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about serious health problems with high doses of benadryl. Eating too much can lead to heart problems, seizures, coma or death, the FDA said.
Parents can pay attention to early symptoms including hallucinations, blurred vision, excessive drowsiness, loss of balance and chest pain, Patty said.
In some cases, the heart rate normalizes without any long-term consequences.
For others, the trend could be deadly. In the summer of 2020, a 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma named Chloe Marie Phillips died after competing.
What can parents do?
Johnson & Johnson stated that Benadryl should only be used as directed by the label.
“Parents and caregivers play an important role in identifying and addressing this behavioral problem and should be aware of the signs of misuse and abuse,” the drug maker said. “All medications should be kept out of the reach of children at all times.”
Preventing teens from abusing drugs can be difficult.
Petty advises parents to shut down Benadryl and other medications.
“Most of them are not ready to take medication on their own unless taught by an adult and they are under adult supervision when taking medication,” she said.
Encourage teens to read and follow the doses listed on the label, she says.
“They often don’t know how to read the Medication Facts label, which tells you very important information about dosage, warnings, and how best to use the medication,” Patty said.
According to the instructions on the Benadryl bottle, children 6 to 12 years old should take one Benadryl tablet every four to six hours. Anyone over the age of 12 can take one to two pills every four to six hours. No more than six doses should be taken in 24 hours.
Patty also recommends an open dialogue on such issues.
“You want to acknowledge that this challenge is happening, you want to discuss it with them, let them think,” she said.
If your child has a TikTok account, you should follow his social media to some degree, says Zavadsky of MedStar.
“It would be important for parents to know that there is such an opportunity in this area, and to monitor the behavior of your children,” he said. “If you notice a significant shift in their patterns of behavior or if they have become more secretive about their social networks, conduct a more detailed investigation, ask them if they have problems, ask if they are involved in any potential problems.”
What to do if an overdose has occurred
In case your child has taken too much Benadryl, call 911 immediately.
While you are waiting for an ambulance, do not try to induce vomiting and do not give them anything to drink or eat. For more information, contact the Poison Dispatch Service at 800-222-1222. They will tell you if your child needs hospitalization, depending on how much he has swallowed. If the overdose is related to a TikTok problem, they may have taken a large dose and should go to the hospital.
“We have taken steps to stop the spread of this behavior,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “We work with social media platforms and their security teams to remove these dangerous messages, including any new content we identify during monitoring. We have posted security information on our branded website Benadryl.com and contacted our retail partners and our industry trade associations to inform them of the “call”. We have invested in research and data to understand the root causes of adolescent misuse and abuse, and intensified plans to educate adolescents, parents, caregivers, and health care providers on the proper use of diphenhydramine-containing products. ”