image of laundry pods

Have You Heard of the Tide Pod Challenge? Your Kids Probably Have!

The Challenge

By now, many people have heard about the Tide Pod challenge. Teens are filming themselves biting into or smoking Tide Pods or other laundry detergent packets and then posting the video on social media. Some of these videos are now going viral. If you haven’t heard about it, ask your kids. I can almost guarantee they will know what you are talking about.

The Risks

It’s hard to believe, but it is happening and at an alarming rate. These products are a mix of highly concentrated, toxic chemicals that can cause serious injuries or even death. Contact with the liquid inside the packets can cause severe burns to your skin, eyes, mouth, and esophagus (or any other organ they touch). If the chemicals are absorbed into your body and get into your blood stream, the chemicals can go straight to your brain which can cause you to stop breathing, or lead to seizures, coma, and even death. Finally, if you gasp when the liquid is swallowed, the chemicals can get into your lungs and cause serious damage. As you can see, this is not something to joke about or play around with. Because of the potential dangers of this product, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using traditional detergent instead of laundry packets if you have kids younger than 6 years old.

The Lure of Social Media

The danger from some of these challenges is that kids who might not normally think to pop a laundry packet in their mouth see other kids getting a lot of “likes” or shares on social media and want to see if they can get in on the fun. In some cases, kids even make money from the videos if they get enough views or likes. Couple that with the fact that many teens think they are invincible and you have a recipe for disaster. The potential for social media fame overrules their best judgement.

The Talk

One of the best ways to combat this risk is to talk to them about it. You may get some eye rolls and sighs. They might even tell you that they aren’t dumb enough to do something like that. But what you have done is reminded them how serious and potentially dangerous the risk is and given them the words to use so they can say no if a friend asks them to do the challenge. Just having the conversation, may be enough for them to say, “Wait a second, this really isn’t a good idea.”

Worst Case Scenario

If you find that someone in your home has been exposed to the liquid inside of a laundry detergent packet, call 9-1-1 if they are in immediate distress (burned skin, trouble breathing, etc.). If they aren’t experiencing any side effects that you can see, call the Poison Control Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 so they can talk you through what to watch out for and help you decide if further action is needed.

For more tips on learning how to make your home safe, download the Make Safe Happen app for iPhone or Android. Click here for more information.

Tracy Mehan, MA
Tracy Mehan is the manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In this role, she takes injury prevention research out of the journals and into the community. As the mother of a very active 12-year-old boy and an aunt to 21 nieces and nephews, she frequently gets to see firsthand the need for various injury prevention measures. When she isn’t out trying to save the world, you can find her on the basketball court with her son, with her nose in her kindle, or exploring websites on pirate trivia.

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