Dangerous viral Benadryl challenge makes a comeback on social media; Monmouth County teen hospitalized

The Benadryl challenge involves taking a high number of pills - so much that it causes the person to hallucinate but can lead to coma or worse.

Lanette Espy and Jim Murdoch

Apr 27, 2023, 11:00 AM

Updated 452 days ago

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A Monmouth County family is grateful that their 13-year-old child survived what is known as the Benadryl challenge.
The challenge is part of a social media trend kids do online with each other. The same challenge is blamed for the death of a 13-year-old in Ohio this month.
The Benadryl challenge involves taking a high number of pills - so much that it causes the person to hallucinate, but it can lead to a coma or worse.
For one family who chose to not be identified, the nightmare began Saturday, April 15 when they found their 13-year-old twitching, staring, unable to speak and grabbing at things in the air. A review of Snapchat messages found the teen took at least seven pills.
He was rushed to a hospital and stayed for three days at a Jersey Shore pediatric intensive care unit while a team of doctors treated him. Following a five-day stay at a treatment facility, the teen was released and recovered.
The mom wrote a message to News 12 New Jersey warning families of the dangers of this challenge and rallying for a change.
"Please help us to spread the word to every family. We have to unite. Communicate. Strategize. Create an effective plan forward to protect our children’s lives. Social media CEOs, politicians, legislators, pharmaceutical company CEOs, and Technology CEOs, hear my desperate plea for immediate change. NOW,” she wrote.
Dr. Stacy Doumas, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, says parents should ask their children if they’ve seen challenges like this on their social media platforms. She says these challenge accidents are scary, a real danger and not as uncommon as parents may think. She also says the app creators bear some responsibility by not keeping children who aren't of age off the platform and monitoring content.
"One of the tests I use in talking to kids myself is, 'How does it make you feel to go on these things? Do you feel better if you feel connected to people or do you feel worse when you are engaging on social media? If you don't feel good, why do you keep doing it?' And they can start to set limits themselves," Doumas said.
In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration warned parents about the challenge and investigated reports on it.
"Remember on social media, everything looks fabulous. People's lives look different than they are in reality, so they might think, hey this is OK because these 10 kids did it, and they were fine. Remember we only put things out on social media often that present us in the best light or maybe they present us in a light that's not even realistic. Kids might be influenced by that. They may say other kids did it, they were OK, I should be able to do it and be OK too," Doumas said.
Overdosing on Benadryl or similar medications can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma or even death.
Watch the complete interview with Doumas below:


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