A dangerous and potentially deadly trend is sweeping social media that entices people to cook chicken in cough syrup or cold and flu medicine, prompting an expert at the Iowa Poison Control Center to say never do this.
Registered nurse Tammy Noble, the Sioux City-based center’s education manager, says this practice can be exceptionally hazardous, depending on what’s used, and she calls it a recipe for disaster.
“There’s different medicines that are in the cough syrup and chicken can absorb that cough syrup,” Noble says. “Some of those ingredients could be things like acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol. Acetaminophen is safe in recommended doses but it can cause liver damage and even death when you get overdoses of it.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an advisory, warning consumers that cooking chicken in these medications is dangerous and Noble confirms, it could be lethal. “Cough suppressants can cause heart palpitations and agitations, sometimes even hallucinations depending on the amount that was taken,” Noble says, “and it also has things like decongestants which have an effect on your blood pressure, can cause heart attacks and headaches if they’re used in high, high doses.”
There’s also the risk of food poisoning if the chicken isn’t properly cooked, and if the red, green, or blue liquid soaks into the meat, it’ll be hard to distinguish its color. In addition, cooking chicken in a marinade of medication could give off highly concentrated vapors which could critically damage the lungs.
So, why would people even consider following this TikTok challenge? “I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be better for sleep or if it’s just a trend,” Noble says, “or if they’re looking for alternative ways to keep themselves from getting sick, whether it’s from just regular winter/fall germs or whether it’s with the COVID-19 infections, we’re not really sure.” Much like with the Tide Pod Challenge a few years ago, in which people shot videos of themselves while eating liquid laundry detergent pods, Noble says she’s not surprised people would try cooking chicken in NyQuil.
“Working at the poison center, we always think we’ve heard it all until we answer the call, and then it’s like, ‘Nope, haven’t heard that one before,’ and people never cease to amaze us at some of the things that they will attempt to do,” Noble says, “maybe not necessarily knowing how unsafe it may be, or maybe they -do- know how unsafe it is and they don’t care.”
As ridiculous as the Tide Pod Challenge may have seemed to most of us, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports it killed at least ten people, none of them in Iowa. Noble says as yet, she’s taken no calls at the hotline about this latest chicken recipe, at least not yet. Reach the Iowa Poison Control Center any day, any time at 800-222-1222.