WARSAW — A new, dangerous social media trend has health experts concerned about the health and safety of teens.
A 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma died and three teens in Texas were treated at a hospital after using too much Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication. All of them intentionally took multiple Benadryl pills and recorded themselves afterward as part of a challenge circulating on the social media app TikTok.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, overdosing on diphenhydramine can cause: inability to urinate, blurred vision, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, delirium, depression, seizures, hallucinations, agitation, confusion, nausea and vomiting.
Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in Benadryl.
While death is rare, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says it is possible due to serious heart rhythm disturbances.
In the event of an overdose, call the Poison Help hotline at (800) 222-1222.
Prevention Action Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance misuse, urges parents to use this new social media challenge as a teachable moment to discuss digital dares.
“When this Internet challenge fades, there will be another one,” said Fran Gerbig, executive director at Prevention Action Alliance. “It’s important to talk about the health and safety risks of this and other online challenges.”
Gerbig said that parents can help by setting clear boundaries about acceptable and unacceptable behavior with their kids and prompting them to think critically about the health implications of using too much of any substance.
“Kids are smart, but sometimes, they need an adult to prompt them to use their brain,” Gerbig said. “As teenagers, they’re naturally impulsive, and they might make decisions without first thinking about those consequences. Role modeling and prompting them to pause and think can help set them up for success when they find themselves in these situations.”
Gerbig said teenage brains are still developing, and taking risks and trying to outdo peers are natural parts of growing up. In short, any child, no matter how mild-mannered or mature, might try a challenge like this.
“Don’t over focus on the risks,” Gerbig said. “Teens are hard-wired to defend against scare tactics, and research clearly shows that these kinds of messages don’t help children make healthy choices. Instead, focus on teaching them how to make healthy decisions now and in the future.”