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'Tide pod challenge' poses threat to teens

• Updated Jan 12, 2018 at 1:02 PM

A dangerous, new craze known as the “Tide Pod Challenge” is gaining popularity among teens on social media — and doctors say it could land them in the hospital.

In the latest social media fad, teenagers record themselves purposely eating laundry pods. Medical experts warn that swallowing the contents of a detergent packet can cause life-threatening effects including coma, fluid in lungs and breathing failure.

It all started as jokes, according to a story published this week in the USA Today. The lure of Tide Pods, which look almost like candy, broke into satirical conversations as early as 2015 when The Onion published column from the perspective of a child who wanted to eat a blue and red detergent pod, the newspaper reported.

A video posted last March titled “College Humor’s Don’t Eat The Laundry Pods” generated the biggest conversation about students eating pods, the newspaper reported. Ideas — and even dares — about eating the pods followed on various social media platforms.

Now, videos of teens putting Tide Pods in their mouth and even cooking with them are making the rounds online as part of the "Tide Pod Challenge,” USA Today reported. A YouTube search of “Tide Pod Challenge” generates a great number of these.

“Our laundry pacs are a highly concentrated detergent meant to clean clothes … They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke,” Tide said in a statement to the USA Today.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus provided the Norwalk Reflector with the following information about this topic.

Laundry detergent packets are small packets of detergent that can be tossed straight into a washing machine. They are a quick way to use the right amount of detergent without measuring.

But these packets pose a risk to young children. Toddlers will put anything in their mouths, and packets are the perfect size and shape to be picked up. The colorful packets can also look like candy or juice to a young child.

Any kind of detergent can be harmful, but the chemicals in laundry detergent packets are especially concentrated. Children who swallow those chemicals have had trouble breathing, have lapsed into comas, and have had other serious health problems. There have even been a few deaths. Even just touching the chemicals can cause burns and other injuries. Fortunately, traditional (liquid or powder) laundry detergent is a safer alternative. 

Parents and child caregivers can help children stay safer by following these tips:

• People who have young children that live in or visit their home should use traditional laundry detergent, which is much less toxic than laundry detergent packets.

• Store all laundry detergent including packets up, away, and out of sight - in a locked cabinet is best.

• Close laundry detergent packet packages or containers and put them away immediately after use.

• Save the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.


Laundry detergent packet injury facts:

There is about one call every 45 minutes to U.S. poison control centers about a young child being exposed to the chemicals in laundry detergent packets.

One young child is hospitalized every 17 hours after swallowing or otherwise coming into contact with a laundry detergent packet. That’s about 10 kids each week.

Children who are younger than 3 years old account for most laundry detergent packet exposures.

In 2017, poison control centers received reports of more than 10,500 exposures to highly concentrated packed of laundry detergent by children 5 and younger, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the USA Today reported.

If you think a child has been exposed to laundry detergent packets, call the National Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. Take a child to the doctor right away if he has been exposed to laundry detergent packets and is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

• Vomiting

• Choking/coughing

• Eye irritation, pain, or redness

• Nausea

• Drowsiness/lethargy

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