I was scrolling through my Facebook page when I came across a lot of memes regrading eating tide pods. At first, I thought it was a joke and did not pay attention, but then I started looking into it and realized that Tide Pod challenge is a real thing. Teenagers are daring each other to eat tide pods and actually eating tide pods for bragging rights. My initial thought, at 15 you should know that eating a laundry detergent is harmful. But then I thought when you are a teenager, you think nothing can harm you and bragging rights are more important. Being that person who accepted the challenge and ate a tide pod is cool. Nonetheless, doing so is very detrimental to your health and can also be fatal. In 2016, poison control centers responded to 39 cases of intentional exposures among teenagers. In 2017, that number rose to 53 cases. In the first 15 days of 2018, officials have responded to 39 cases of intentional exposure. Of those 39 cases, 91 percent were for ingestion, the AAPCC said.
Since tide pods look like candies, these can also be accidentally consumed by younger kids and older patients with dementia or Alzheimer. Therefore, it is crucial to know how it can effect your health. Children who have been exposed to the capsules have been hospitalized with vomiting, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness. The contents of the pods can also cause seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death, according to the AAPCC.
Teen Vogue asked Ivan Miller, MD, director of the Emergency Departments at Westchester Medical Center, what eating a tide pod can do and what should be done if someone eats a tide pod. According to Dr. Ivan Miller, if you chew on the pod, the wrapping dissolves and breaks and sometimes the contents squirts out and it bursts in your mouth. Sometimes it squirts in your eye. When it squirts in your mouth it goes down your throat and goes down your esophagus to the stomach. It can also go down the trachea and to the lungs. The detergent can get on the skin or mucosa (inner lining of mouth). It can cause a burn to skin or mucosa, to the eyes, and a really severe burn to the eye due to the acids and alkalis in laundry detergent. Alkalis can cause a lot of eye damage. You can also damage the lining of the esophagus or stomach. In a child, they might vomit or drool, or have shortness of breath. The burns will cause pain. Acids and alkalis to the eye can cause blindness. Other very concentrated chemicals in detergent can cause sleepiness, or even coma — it’s unusual but there have been deaths in small children, but that’s less likely in a teenager. There are chemicals — ethoxylated alcohols, surfactant — which cause severe effects on the lungs and other areas of the body, and likely cause shortness of breath or death in the case of small children.
According to Dr. Miller, if someone eats it and the substance gets in their eye, they should irrigate the eye with water as soon as possible and thoroughly, because alkali substances can continue to burn after irrigation. When people come to the ER with detergent in their eyes, they check the acidity/PH of the eye to make sure they’ve normalized it. If you have any severe symptoms, call 911 or go to the hospital. If they are not severe, call your personal physician or local poison center.
If someone does ingest detergent, officials urge people to call the poison-control helpline immediately at 800-222-1222.
If you have teen in your house, make sure to have this conversation with them and make them understand the consequences. If you use tide pods and have a younger child in your house, please make sure it is out of the reach of young kids.