The Tide Pod Challenge is among the worst I have seen so far. This challenge is where teens and tweens attempt to consume a plastic laundry detergent pod while live-streaming, or recording it to later share on social media.

What are the risks?

  • Choking on the poisonous liquid by inhaling it
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Changes in heart rate/blood pressure
  • Burns to the digestive tract, mouth, and stomach
  • Loss of consciousness

The desperate need for social media ‘likes’ continues to trump common sense and logic for this generation of kids. Despite the warnings from poison control centers, the recent news coverage about the risks associated with ingesting pods, and Procter & Gamble, who makes Tide Pods, warning to parents and kids on social media, this trend is still very popular among adolescents today.

So far, in 2018, there have been 40 reports of teens putting these pods in their mouths, biting down, and ending up with a mouthful of liquid toxins. Parents need to know about this popular challenge so that they can intervene and educate their child about the associated dangers.
Essentially, these kids are ingesting poison which can lead to serious health issues, obviously not worth the number of ‘likes’ or the rise in social status for doing so. Youtube has, thankfully, stepped in and said that they will not post videos on their site of kids trying this challenge. But, as we all know, there are many other ways kids can post and share videos online other than on Youtube.

Jana L. Anderson, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was interviewed by Buzzfeed and explained what happens to the body when a pod is ingested.
She reminds us that these laundry pods are full of chemicals and are highly concentrated, unlike regular laundry detergent.

Dr. Anderson said, “What’s inside the pod will depend on the type, some have softener or bleach, but most are full of a very alkaline detergent.”
So, here is what happens. First, the pod will explode in your mouth and probably cause a lot of irritation and coughing or gagging.

“The pods are in plastic wrapping, which puts them under some pressure, so when you chew on them they will explode in the mouth and coat the mucous membranes inside,” Anderson says. The alkaline pH of the highly concentrated liquid can cause immediate irritation in the mouth and vomiting. When the pod ruptures upon the first bite, it can also get in the eyes and cause burning or abrasions. If you swallow the detergent, it can cause burns to the esophagus and stomach, as well as gastrointestinal distress.

If you swallow the detergent pod, either after chewing it or whole, it can do even more damage. “The chemicals can cause burns on the back of the mouth and down the esophagus,” Anderson says. The detergent can also seriously irritate the lining of your stomach. “That’s why the body typically immediately revolts and people vomit because the stomach is burning,” Anderson says. When the detergent passes through the rest of your digestive tract, it can cause diarrhea. “The one good thing is that it won’t take that long for it to pass through your body, so you’ll know within the first hour after ingesting it if something is going to happen.”

The real danger is if you inhale the detergent while swallowing or vomiting.

“Most people will inhale or gasp right after they break open the pod in their mouth or while the liquid is going down their throat,” Anderson says, so some of the detergent enters the trachea and lungs. “People can also cough and aspirate on their own vomit, which contains the detergent, so it can go into the lungs, anything like detergent that’s very reactive, or contains surfactants, is going to be very irritating for the lungs and if someone gets to this point, they might need to be put on a ventilator.”

Procter & Gamble is posting warnings on social media, like this video of Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, telling kids not to eat Tide Pods.

We all know that telling kids not to do something often has the opposite effect, so parents, the only way you can know what your kids are doing and posting, is by using Social Judo.

So yes, talk with your child about the dangers of this online challenge, but don’t expect that conversation to be enough to dissuade them. Monitor and parent them in cyberspace, it is the new paradigm and smart parents everywhere are onboard.


Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.