As incredulous stories go, the one about people eating laundry detergent as a challenge is difficult to beat. Why would any healthy person put Tide Pods into his or her mouth? Well, perhaps I should have asked “What sane healthy person?” would do this because this practice is insane.
For those who do not know, the “Tide Pod Challenge” involves people – mostly teenagers – putting these detergent packets into their mouths and either spitting them out or ingesting them. Since the thin membrane coated pods are filled with not only soap but also chemicals, they can cause a variety of serious injuries and can even lead to death.
Why Tide Pods?
There are always new challenges that come and go, but hopefully this one is not here to stay. The allure of the pods is supposedly because they look like a treat and appeal to children; obviously, they are also attracting the interest of older kids too as well as adults. Personally, I have seen these pods and do not understand the appeal. No matter how pretty they look, my mind sends a warning signal that they are filled with laundry detergent.
Parents of young children usually take great caution to keep all hazardous items away from them. When my kids were little, we had locks on all the kitchen cabinets to prevent them from getting to detergents, cleansers, and the utensil drawers. Once our kids got older, all those locks were removed because we believed our kids knew better. Obviously, the “Tide Pod Challenge” proves that some older kids do not.
A Form of Punishment
I have no idea why anyone would want to put soap in his or her mouth. When I was a kid I used to get soap put in my mouth when I used a bad word, just like Ralph in the classic film A Christmas Story. While the soap used in the movie seems almost pristine, that was not the case in real life.
My Mom would make me sit on the edge of the tub and take the bar of soap from the shelf – complete with hair and every bacterium imaginable on it – and shove it in my mouth. Those would be the longest five minutes of my life until she came back to remove the soap and tell me to brush my teeth.
The “challenge” in those days was not to puke after Mom took the bar out of my mouth. Those punishments – which still make me shiver – are the only reason why I know how bad soap tastes.
Pop Rocks and Soda
This “Tide Pod Challenge” does make me think of something stupid I did as a teenager, which at the time seemed scary and thus exciting. This involved putting Pop Rocks candy into my mouth and drinking soda with it. Anyone who has tried Pop Rocks knows they fizzle in the mouth, but the addition of a carbonated beverage was said to cause a combustion that made kids’ heads or stomachs explode.
The rumor going around was that the kid Little Mikey from the iconic Life Cereal commercial tried the Pop Rocks and soda challenge and died. Despite what would become an urban legend – and no, John Gilchrist who played Mikeydid not die – wacky teenagers everywhere across America (including yours truly) tried it. All that happened to me was I laughed so hard that the bubbling stuff came out of my nose, but at least the items in this challenge weren’t poisonous.
A Serious Matter
It is not just because of the colorful soft pods that the “Tide Pod Challenge” clearly appeals to teenagers, but it is more an outrageous act that defies logic and reason. Why would people put those pretty but poisonous things in their mouths? Well, that’s exactly the reason why – to defy, to dare, to do something crazy just for the sake of the craziness of it.
The New York Times reports reports that in the first half of this month poison control centers handled 39 cases of teenagers exposing themselves to the pods, which is as many cases for all of last year. If that doesn’t get parents’ attention, I do not know what will.
I think parents will need help with this situation, and it probably would be a good idea for school districts to also address this issue as the serious health matter that it is. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it is essential because some kind of instruction is needed K-12 to avoid having many more cases that involve serious injuries to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
When something like this happens, it is easy to think it is amusing or that it will not affect us, but we need to talk to young people and try to guide them as to the dangers involved with this and all kinds of challenges. The very nature of challenges is that there is some risk involved, so that is why intervention is needed especially in case like this.
Parents of the little ones have to make sure those attractive pods are nowhere in their reach. Those with teenagers have to sit down and have a serious talk about it. Common sense and safety take a great deal of time to implement, but the catastrophic consequences that they can prevent are more than worth the effort.