Prompted by internet dares, dozens of U.S. teenagers in recent weeks have popped liquid laundry detergent packets from a variety of manufacturers into their mouths just to see what happens, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

There have been 39 reported cases of teens intentionally ingesting laundry pods during the first 15 days of 2018, poison control center statistics show.

That's exactly as many cases reported for the entire year of 2016, and nearly three-quarters of the 53 intentional misuse cases reported to poison control in 2017, the AAPCC reported.

The plastic skins of laundry pods are designed to dissolve on contact with water and automatically release the pods' contents. That means when kids pop a pod in their mouths, they're also getting a dose of chemical cleansers.

Ingesting a detergent pod could potentially cause devastating long-term effects. If the detergent burns the esophagus, resulting in scarring, it narrows the passageway making it easier for food to get stuck.  

At the very least, kids who stick a pod in their mouth will cough, gag and foam at the mouth. At worst, they could experience diarrhea and vomiting, chemical burns to their throat and airways, severe breathing problems, seizures and even a coma.

When laundry pods first hit the market several years ago, experts were particularly concerned about young children trying to eat them. The pods are very colorful and look like candy.

Indeed, children aged 5 and under were most affected by intentional and unintentional exposure to single-load liquid laundry packets in 2017, accounting for 10,583 of the total 12,299 cases reported to the nation's poison control centers.

  • Poison centers have recommend that parents with kids 5 and under not use the pods
  • Put pods in a locked cabinet so young children can’t reach them
  • Parents should sit down and talk with their teens about the danger of ingesting laundry pods

If you have questions or concerns about the misuse or ingestion of a laundry packet, call the national poison help hotline immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance. You can also text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

Don’t wait to call poison control if you detect any difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, foaming at the mouth or drooling, or seizures. Call 911 immediately.

For more on laundry detergent pods, visit Consumer Reports.

Learn more about our dedicated Pediatric ER at oprmc.com/kidser and find a pediatric specialist at oprmc.com/pediatrics.

  • When laundry pods first hit the market several years ago, experts were particularly concerned about young children trying to eat them because they are very colorful and look like candy.
  • But we don’t know why teens are intrigued by this. It appears to be an internet phenomenon that has taken on a life of its own.
  • If you have small children, you should consider locking them away or removing them from your home.
  • Taking them out of the house won’t prevent teens from getting them, though.
    • Parents should sit down and talk with their teens. Let them know it may seem funny now, but it could land them in the emergency room, multiple surgeries or worse.
  • When someone pops the pod in their mouth, they're going to receive a flood of chemical cleansers in their body. They may experience:
    • Coughing, gagging and foaming at the mouth
    • Burns to the skin, eyes, throat or esophagus (Chemical burns to the esophagus are especially concerning as they can result in scarring that makes the passageway narrow and creates a long-term choking hazard which could require many surgeries to fix.
    • Diarrhea and vomiting
    • Severe breathing problems
    • Seizures
    • Coma

Don’t wait to call poison control. Call 9-1-1 immediately.