Last year, a 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma was rushed to the hospital, and later died, as a result of a Tik Tok trend: The Benadryl Challenge.
Challengers consumed upwards of 12 Benadryl pills in a seconds-long social media stint. The recommended dose is two pills for adults (just one for kids under the age of 12) every 4 to 6 hours. The advisory statement also warns against exceeding six pills in 24 hours. The apparent appeal of the challenge was triggering hallucinations and an altered mental state. Numerous teens were hospitalized.
Suffice to say, the medical community was horrified, and the FDA issued a warning in response.
Benadryl can indeed trigger hallucinations, seizures, and other extreme side effects at quantities high enough to be considered an overdose. Common side effects include sleepiness, dry mouth, and heart palpitations.
The Benadryl Challenge left many in the food allergy community particularly unnerved, as this drug can be a life-saving medication for those experiencing an allergic reaction. It struck a chord with me personally, as I’ve experienced moments of panic while taking Benadryl during an allergic reaction, and could easily see how someone might accidentally ingest too much. Serious allergic reaction onset, including anaphylaxis, can be immediate and unforgiving. This trend serves as a good reminder for the food allergy community that while Benadryl may seem like a benign antihistamine, it can be lethal in large quantities—just like any drug—and it’s worth consulting your doctor on the recommended dose in the event of an allergic reaction.
This challenge also highlighted the darker side of social media, and how platforms like Tik Tok are popularizing flash pan crazes that leave our youth vulnerable, exploited, and misinformed. The twisted irony of social media is that the more outrageous the video, the more views it garners. To a teen, these higher view counts might mistakenly be interpreted as positive reinforcement or a proxy for popularity. Social media has created new platforms for bullying, which have hit food-allergic kids particularly hard. A recent study found that nearly one in five children with food allergies is bullied.
Talk to your kids—both about social media and the importance of proper antihistamine dosing! That seems to be the best solution right now. Social media has brought the world together in many wonderful ways, but it’s also unleashed a world of harm, particularly on children. Being a teenager is hard enough without cameras following you around and measuring your worth with hearts and thumbs. Open lines of communication and creating healthy boundaries around these platforms are probably our best shot at insulating children from harm.
— Abi and the Allergy Amulet Team