The Tide pod challenge, the newest fad among adolescents, is presenting physicians and poison control centers with growing concerns about the dangers of children and teens consuming the pods, which have highly concentrated laundry detergent in them. Until the development of the recent Tide pod challenge, the poisonings had mainly been seen in children less than 5 years of age. According to the American Association Poison Control Centers, the number of cases reported in 2018 has reached the total number seen in the entire year of 2017. Teens have been challenging one another to place the pod into their mouth and bite into it while making a video to share on social media such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Because of the concentrated chemicals that these pods contain, burns to the mouth, esophagus, and lungs can occur causing difficulty swallowing and breathing. Symptoms that have been seen associated with the ingestion of the pods include:
- severe nausea, vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea
- difficulty swallowing
- choking and coughing
- respiratory distress and failure
- mental changes
When burns occur to the esophagus, endoscopic surgery may be required to treat the scarring and swelling that result. There have been reports of children who have required intubation to assist in breathing and also who have had feeding tubes placed because of the burns to the esophagus restricting swallowing.
Long-term medical problems may be seen in teens who suffer from esophageal burns due to narrowing of the esophagus. They may have difficulty swallowing food and may experience problems with choking when they eat due to food getting caught when swallowing.
The laundry pods have been marketed in brightly colored packaging and have been mistaken for candy in young children. The company that makes Tide, Proctor & Gamble, in response to young children being poisoned, has made the packaging child-proof and urges parents to keep them in areas where young children cannot get access to them. The problem with teens and the Tide pod challenge, however, is that there is no way to restrict them from getting the pods since they can go to the store and buy them with their own money.
Because of this, it is important that parents have a discussion with their teens about the dangers of ingesting these chemicals. Stress to them that, even though this may seem like a funny prank that is going around the social media sites, their health and their lives can be changed drastically if they try it. It’s not worth the long-term health consequences. It is important to note that these dangers are not exclusive to Tide brand and are a threat to any encased laundry pod or packet.
If you think your child has ingested a laundry pod, get medical help immediately through an emergency room or emergency medical services, especially if he/she is having concerning symptoms such as difficulty breathing or is drowsy and hard to wake up. You can also call a poison control center in your area if you think your child has consumed one.