As a young fella growing up and thinking I was grown up, I would occasionally forget I was around my parents and let the odd swear word out. I was regularly given a ‘talking too’ with the threat of ‘getting my mouth washed out with soap’. This actually happened to me once, and it put me off Dove soap for life! Which then begs the question: Why on earth would people willingly and deliberately put a concentrated liquid laundry detergent into their mouth and eat it???

The simple answer to this is – the internet. With YouTube, Facebook and other forms of social media providing a ready and easily accessible platform for people to show off, it seems that people are intent on undertaking more stupid behaviour and riskier activities in search of more ‘likes’. This then leads to such things as the Tide Pod Challenge. And it is this behaviour that can lead to some complex scenarios faced by first aiders.

You may be aware of the Tide Pod Challenge by now, as it has seen some extensive media coverage in the last week or so. It basically involves a ridiculous number of teenagers and adults (yes, adults…) being dared to shove a pod of chemicals into their mouth and eat it. The resulting facial expressions, vomiting, nose running and swearing are what have drawn an equally ridiculous number people to watch, comment and like.

So what are Tide Pods? Whilst not being sold in Australia, these pods are concentrated liquid laundry detergent held inside a PVA (basically a dissolvable plastic) casing. These get thrown into the washing machine with the dirty clothes and when the final rinse is complete, you have wet but clean clothes. Here in Australia, you’ll have likely seen something similar for your dishwasher.

In the USA, laundry pods have been the cause of accidental poisonings due to the pretty colours and similarities they have with boiled sweets. Young children and folk with dementia were predominantly the populations exposed to these poisonings. Consequently, manufactures of detergent pods changed their packaging to less appealing colours and to have double lock mechanisms on the containers to make opening harder. But towards the end of 2017, with the increased popularity of internet meme’s (Google tells us what a meme is here https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-a-meme-2483702) surrounding the eating of these pods, the incidence of laundry detergent poisonings rose rapidly.

The ingesting (swallowing) of laundry detergent is not a great idea. The detergent is highly caustic, or corrosive. Consequently, if you were to eat and then swallow it, it will result in significant burns to the mouth, oesophagus (food pipe), stomach and gastrointestinal system. If inhaled, burns can result in the respiratory tract and lungs. Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • Looking/feeling unwell
  • Burning sensation in throat
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Altered level of consciousness
  • A headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Possibly seizures
  • Burns or blistering around the lips and tongue

If you were to encounter someone who has recently undertaken a form of this challenge for their shot at internet stardom, unfortunately, the first aid scope of training doesn’t include giving them a clip around the ear to address their stupidity. Poisonings are one of the components of our provide first aid course, which are run weekly at Helensvale and Mermaid Beach, or alternatively, we can come to you at your workplace. To jog your memory, this is what we do if we encounter a poisoning:

  • Prevention – place all chemicals and poisons out of reach of children, preferably locked away. Do not decant poisons or chemicals into unmarked containers, or into alternate containers (such as soft drink bottles). Keep them in their original containers as the containers provide vital information in the event of contamination or consumption.If swallowed, CALL 000 IF LIFE THREATENING and undertake basic lifesaving treatment if required. Use a resuscitation mask, as you don’t want to have the contaminant enter your mouth.
  • Try to identify what was consumed and how much was consumed.
  • If swallowed, allow the patient to take small sips of water to rinse their mouth out – do not allow them to swallow.
  • DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. If a patient has consumed a caustic substance that has burned their oesophagus, if the patient is made to vomit, it will burn again on the way back up.
  • CALL POISONS INFORMATION CENTRE 13 11 26 for specific information and treatment. Ensure you have, at a minimum, the product name of what was consumed.
  • If the patient were to vomit, try to collect and contain it in a bag or container as paramedics may want to inspect.

To wrap up, the best thing you can do with poisonings is to prevent them. As mentioned before, keep poisons out of reach of children and don’t deliberately ingest them. The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service conduct free Safehome (https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/community-safety/freeprograms/Pages/safehome.aspx) visits for fire and household safety audits. If you are unsure whether your home is safe or not, this free service is available to all Queenslanders. It is also ideal to keep your first aid skills updated, so don’t be shy in giving us a call here at Paradise First aid to book in your CPR or First Aid refresher. Stay safe.

Information sourced from the following sites:

https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laundry_detergent_pod

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide_Pod_challenge

https://resus.org.au/guidelines/ Guideline 9.5.1

Various online media stories relating to ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

Craig Middleton
About Craig Middleton
Craig has been training with Paradise First Aid since late 2016. He was heavily involved with the volunteer State Emergency Service, undertaking vertical rescues, flood boat operations and assisting the community following natural disasters. He also has extensive fire and rescue experience in both state and private sectors. Craig recently graduated with distinction with a Bachelor of Paramedic Science.

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