Relax. Your kids are probably not eating Tide pods.
I mean, they might be, but even if they are, laundry detergent is still probably one of the least dangerous consumer products you have to worry about your kids getting their hands on around the house.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s this viral phenomenon on social media called the "Tide Pod Challenge” that has parents in hysterics. It involves teenagers daring each other to eat or bite into highly concentrated laundry detergent capsules for the viewing pleasure of others on social media.
We’re not talking about babies and toddlers who eat the potentially deadly, brightly colored tablets because they don’t know better. We’re talking about teenagers who know full well how dumb it is to do what they’re doing and do it anyway. Because, just like when we were teenagers, being part of the group is more important than getting through the day without poisoning yourself.
Eating laundry detergent can cause vomiting, burns to the digestive tract, loss of consciousness, death. Even if someone bites into a pod and spits it out right away, as some local kids have done, they could damage their lungs by inhaling some of the contents (though there are no local reports of that).
But kids are not getting Tide-ified as often or in such a severe manner as some media would have you believe.
First of all, there are no reports of any teens actually dying as a result of doing the challenge. In Erie County, Oishei Children’s Hospital hasn’t treated a single patient as the result of a Tide pod challenge. Neither have any of Kaleida Health’s emergency rooms.
Yes, the American Association of Poison Control Centers already has fielded more teen Tide pod “exposures” in the first two weeks of the year than it did for all of 2016.
But do you know how many cases that amounts to? 39.
Not exactly an epidemic.
The most common side effect experienced by teens eating laundry pods is explosive diarrhea. In fact, that’s probably the most effective way to warn your kids away from trying this stunt: Let them know they could poop their pants for all to see on Instagram.
I’m not trying to minimize the dangers of eating Tide Pods. It’s just that there are plenty of more immediate risks kids face. There are many consumer products that are much more likely to end up hurting or killing our kids, and most of them are just as easily accessible.
So let’s put our hysteria into perspective, shall we? If you have teenagers, shift your worry to these consumer products instead:
• Portable gas space heaters. If used indoors and not properly vented, they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Mom and dad’s cigarettes. The rate of adult smoking is higher in Erie County than the national average. Kids whose parents smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. Time to quit.
• Cars. Vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens. In addition to defensive driving education, give them plenty of driving practice while you’re in the car.
• Opiates. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in teens. Walmart now dispenses free DisposeRx packets, which can be used to safely dispose of unused medications. While in use, store them in your safe.
• Guns. Suicide is another leading cause of death among teens. More than half of teens commit suicide with firearms. Keep the guns locked up.