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Tide® Pod Challenge dangers: what everyone needs to know

Community news | Friday, January 26, 2018

Sathish Adigopula, MD
ACMC Pediatrician

Peer pressure, the wish for approval and the desire to fit in, can put teenagers' health at risk. That is especially true with the increase in "dares" that are circulating on social media. The newest dare aimed at teenagers is the "Tide® Pod Challenge".

If you haven't heard of it, the Tide® Pod Challenge involves biting down on a brightly colored laundry detergent packet (of any brand) and either spitting out or swallowing its contents.

In the first 15 days of January, poison control centers across the United States handled 39 cases in which teenagers intentionally exposed themselves to the detergent packets. To put that number in perspective – there were 39 such cases total in 2016.

Since 2012, eight fatalities have been reported among children according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

The laundry detergent packets pose two potential problems. Children and teens can aspirate on the liquid by inhaling it into their lungs, or they can become ill or die by ingesting it.

Tide® pods contain 90 percent active ingredients and 10 percent water, according to the company. A dissolvable covering holds it all in.

Children who are exposed to the highly concentrated, toxic detergent are at risk of serious injury. The chemicals can cause severe burns to the mouth, esophagus, or respiratory tract. They may experience a change in blood pressure and heart rate, lose consciousness, or have seizures. Complications including coma, pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in lungs), respiratory arrest, corneal abrasion, and burns to the eyeballs have also been noted. Children and teens who have ingested detergent from the packets often require medical attention and hospitalization for loss of consciousness, excessive vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing. Severe eye irritation and temporary loss of vision have also resulted from the detergent coming in contact with the eyes.

YouTube and Facebook have pledged to remove posts that show people participating in the challenge. Unfortunately, this takes time and means that more children and teens may learn of the challenge and expose themselves to health risks and possible death..

What can adults do? Talk with children and teenagers about these challenges. Make sure they know about the dangers of ingesting – or even attempting to ingest – concentrated laundry detergent. If you have young children in the house, make sure chemicals, including detergents, are in locked cabinets or are placed on high shelves that cannot be reached by children.

Most importantly, let your child or teen know that putting their health at risk to 'fit in' isn't worth it. Their life is more important than being friends with a certain group.

If your child or teen has been exposed to laundry detergent, immediately call the national poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number on your phone. Follow all instructions and seek further medical attention as needed. Dr. Sathish Adigopula sees patients at ACMC and Conneaut Family Health Center. Schedule an appointment at either location by calling 440-997-6969.