Effects of popular ‘Tide Pod Challenge’ could be deadly, metro poison control expert says

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The “Tide Pod Challenge," where teens bite into laundry detergent pods, is the latest social media craze, but experts say it can have some uncomfortable or even fatal side effects.

Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 39 cases of intentional exposure to the pods, according to data released Wednesday by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Tama Sawyer, managing director of the Poison Control Center of Kansas at the University of Kansas Hospital, said her office handled a call related to the challenge Wednesday afternoon.

“We received a call involving a friend checking on a friend who had done it on Facebook,” Sawyer said.

Ingesting the pods can lead to immediate side effects, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If the pod also consists of dry detergent and it's forced to the back of your throat, it can be fatal.

“If it gets inhaled into the lungs and blocks the airway, that’s where it’s deadly,” Sawyer said. "When you think about the powder, it hits the back of the throat or the saliva, and it just sits there, which could cause burns to the back of the throat in worse cases.”

Shannon Johnson has four children, two of whom are teenagers. She said she doesn’t understand the challenge.

“It’s always something, but this one is just going too far,” she said. “I don’t get it. What is the purpose?”

Johnson’s daughter, Raylan Jackson, believes her peers are doing it to get attention.

“They want views and likes and things like that on social media,” she said. “That’s really important to a lot of teenagers, but it’s not that big of a deal.”

Jackson said she’s seen about a half dozen on the videos online but would never participate in it herself.

“It’s just to fit in and become popular and cool, but it’s dumb,” Jackson said.

YouTube, where many of the videos have been found, is in the process of taking down the videos associated with the challenge.

If you or someone you know ingests a laundry detergent pod, call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.