Teens putting selves, others at risk eating detergent in ‘pod challenge’

Eating laundry detergent can lead to vomiting, trouble breathing, coma and even death

A new social media trend is causing alarm: Teens are scarfing down laundry detergent pods and posting videos and memes.

The “pod challenge” usually involves a teen preparing to eat a pod, then sticking it in their mouth and reacting to it. The laundry detergent packets are shaken, stirred, even cooked. The challenge is designed to get a like and a laugh, but health officials say it’s no laughing matter.

“Ingesting a laundry packet can cause very serious health risks,” said Maria Chapman with the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital.

Nationwide, poison control centers receive more than 30 calls per day about children exposed to detergent pods — about one call every 45 minutes. Nearly half of those calling need medical treatment or evaluation. Potential effects include vomiting, trouble breathing, coma and even death.

Kentucky Poison Control Center

If you suspect your child has ingested a harmful substance or you have other concerns about potential poisoning, call the Kentucky Poison Control Center . Calls are free, confidential and answered by nationally certified toxicology professionals trained to assess the situation and symptoms and recommend appropriate care.

Risk that kids will mimic the pod challenge

While the pod challenge is new, problems with laundry pods have been around for years. Younger children mistake them for candy or a toy.

“There’s now the added concern that young kids will try to mimic these videos or older siblings taking the challenge,” Chapman said.

Chapman recommends parents talk to their older children about the dangers of laundry pods. For younger kids, she says to keep all cleaning products out of reach and sight.

“Laundry rooms often are not a key area of concern for parents when it comes to poison dangers, but this shows that they should be,” Chapman said.