The internet loves a good quirky social media challenge — but the latest popular challenge is downright dangerous.
The Tide Pod Challenge encourages teens to place a Tide Pod on their tongue and record their reactions as the laundry detergent dissolves. While you’d like to believe no one would ever want to ingest laundry detergent, the internet is proving you very wrong. There are so many people eating Tide Pods (and other laundry pods) that Tide and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have both issued warnings.
What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else.
— Tide (@tide) January 12, 2018
According to BuzzFeed News, poison control centers in 2017 fielded 53 cases of people between the ages of 13 and 19 ingesting laundry detergent. In just the first two weeks of 2018, there have already been 39 reported cases according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). Before the Tide Pod Challenge, reports of accidental poisoning by way of laundry detergent were generally only among children under the age of 5.
Tide Pods are considered poisonous, according to Michael Lynch, MD, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center as well as spokesperson for the AAPCC. He told Seventeen that when eaten, Tide Pods are even more dangerous than regular laundry detergent since they are highly concentrated. According to information provided by Lynch, this is what happens to your body when you eat a Tide Pod.
When the Tide Pod is placed on your tongue:
Tide began coating their pods in 2015 with a substance intended to deter children from eating them. The substance, called Bitrex, has an intended bitterness that will cause you to feel nauseous, with your stomach releasing extra acid in an attempt to vomit. All of this happens before you even swallow.
When the Tide Pod begins to melt:
If you manage to keep the pod in your mouth, your body’s natural reaction will be to release saliva with digestive enzymes, dissolving the pod’s coating. Once this coating dissolves, a gel substance comprised of cleaning agents and stain-removers will then be active in your mouth. These cleaning agents coat the tissues lining your mouth, and the pH from the pod will kill the cells on contact. This interaction brings a burning sensation that will last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Your body’s natural response to this burning sensation will be to fight injury and infection causing your lips, tongue, and cheeks to swell.
After the detergent is swallowed:
Because of the gel-like consistency of Tide Pods vs. regular detergent, the substance may not travel down your throat quickly. This means the above reactions may begin to occur in your throat and windpipe. The circumference of your windpipe may shrink, making it hard to breathe, causing shortness of breath. The effort of trying to breathe will tire your body, due to a lack of oxygen, which will cause you to feel groggy. If you manage to inhale sharply, this may encourage the detergent to travel deeper into your system with risk of it reaching your lungs. In severe cases, this could cause you to require a ventilator to breathe properly. If you were to consume several pods, you could develop an ulcer, bloody vomit, and blood loss in the digestive tract. Some of these dangerous reactions can be corrected only with invasive surgery.
If the gel makes it to your lower esophagus, stomach, and intestines, your organs will most likely go unscathed due to the previous damage. However, your stomach and mouth could produce further acid causing you to cough or suffer from heartburn. You may even find yourself coughing up a discharge of bubbly saliva.
According to Lynch, in rare cases, consuming Tide Pods could lead to death. If you end up consuming laundry detergent, call Poison Control. If symptoms worsen or you have trouble breathing, go to the emergency room immediately.