California Poison Control System safety alert: Don’t put yourself in danger for more ‘likes’

Whether it’s a ludicrous and eye-popping stunt, or the latest social media challenge, young adults, teens, and children in particular will do anything to go viral.

Unfortunately, some social media challenges promote disturbing poisoning trends that can prove to be very dangerous, said California Poison Control System.

According to the National Safety Council, poisoning is the number one preventable leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. Think about that before you rise to the next social media challenge promoting the improper use of chemicals, over-the-counter medicines, or the consumption of dangerous amounts of toxic substances.

“When it comes to social media challenges, nothing is off-limits for some people, and they’ll do anything for a few brief minutes of viral fame, likes and shares by competing in dangerously risky social media challenges such as eating laundry pods or improperly using large amounts of medications,” said Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS. “Some of them are lucky and escape the challenge relatively unharmed. But untold numbers of people have been severely injured or have even died.”

Dangerous challenges can have tragic consequences
Among social media challenges that went viral calling for people to do something that overrides basic safety and common sense are:

The Benadryl Challenge: urges users to take large amounts of Benadryl (upwards of 12 tablets at a time) to cause hallucinations or an altered mental state.

Related injuries — high body temperature and heart rate; confusion, sedation, delirium, hallucination; blurred vision; urinary retention; nausea; vomiting; dizziness; and death.

Nyquil Chicken Challenge: encourages people to cook chicken breast in Nyquil, claiming it helps you sleep, nourishes you, and can help you get over a cold.

Related injuries — nausea, vomiting, and/or stomach pains; dizziness; blurred vision; confusion; drowsiness; slurred speech; slow reaction time; and death, in severe cases.

BORG (“blackout rage gallon”) Challenge: College students are using gallon size water jugs, filling it with hard liquor, a color sweetener, and an electrolyte supplement.

Related injuries — alcohol toxicity and death.

Tide Pod Challenge: Encourages people to ingest a brightly colored laundry detergent.

Related injuries — severe burns to the mouth, esophagus, or respiratory tract; and death.

“Social media isn’t going away, so people must use caution when engaging in social media challenges and prioritize their safety and well-being,” adds Vohra.

Social media safety tips for young adults, teens, and kids

  • Be “social media challenge” savvy, know when to opt out.
  • Understand that social media is not all fun and games — there are dangers on the posts.
  • Don’t post with strangers — stay within your social network and trusted circle, and double check whether you really want to do/post something that may backfire.

For parents

  • Connect with your child: Talk openly and compassionately and frequently to children about the potential dangers of social media challenges.
  • Practice safe storage of medicines and chemicals.
  • Supervise young children.

To learn more about the dangers of social media challenges, see these CPCS videos.

About CPCS
Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 (number is the same in all states) for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available. Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS on Facebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.