KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Health experts and local law enforcement are sounding the alarm over a viral TikTok challenge that’s encouraging kids and teens to overdose on allergy medication.
Tuesday Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson issued a safety alert encouraging parents to be aware of the “Benadryl Challenge” after a 13-year-old boy died while attempting the challenge in Ohio.
“Although we aren’t investigating any active cases involving local youth falling victim to this dangerous trend, we are engaging our community now in an attempt to spread important awareness before we lose a child,” Thompson said in a press release.
The online challenge first popped up on social media about three years ago and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The challenge encourages viewers to take dangerous amounts of diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter drug commonly known by the brand name Benadryl, to induce hallucinations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns taking too much of the drug can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma and even death.
“All drugs can obviously be dangerous. Combine youth, social media pressure, and drugs and you can have a recipe for disaster,” Thompson said. “Know what is on your child’s phone, you have that right to know. Establish trust and engage in conversation with your child. I’ve said this before and this dad is saying it now, please listen.”
In December, a Kansas City teen collapsed at school after a classmate gave him a pill that contained diphenhydramine.
“I think that’s a common misconception, if it’s not prescribed by a physician then most people assume that it should be safe. However, there are side effects with any medication,” Laura Kemerling, Nurse and Program Manager at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said.
“It’s always important to read the label and make sure you’re taking it as prescribed by your provider or what’s on the label and just know that medications like Benadryl taken for allergies can still be dangerous,” Kemerling said.
In a response to CNN, TikTok released this statement in light of the Ohio teen’s death:
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family. At TikTok, we strictly prohibit and remove content that promotes dangerous behavior with the safety of our community as a priority. We have never seen this type of content trend on our platform and have blocked searches for years to help discourage copycat behavior.
Our team of 40,000 safety professionals works to remove violations of our Community Guidelines and we encourage our community to report any content or accounts they’re concerned about.”