The dangerous craze has been around for a number of years, but because of social media, kids are getting back into it with renewed vigour and posting videos online.
Called the Tide Pods Challenge, youngsters film themselves popping laundry detergent pods in their mouths.
The detergent has ingredients like ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and polymers which can be life-threatening if ingested. But that hasn’t deterred willing participants to dare each other into biting into the pods.
If a small amount is swallowed it could result in symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting.
“Ingestion of the contents of laundry pods can cause corrosive injury to the mouth and throat resulting in vomiting, abdominal pain and possible breathing difficulties. In small children they can also cause drowsiness and lethargy,” warned the Poison Information Centre’s Dr Cindy Stephen.
Since 2015, the organisation has logged about 50 calls to their helpline related to laundry pods.
“The vast majority of these calls concerned accidental exposure to pods in children under 5 years of age,” she said.
However, the Washington Post reported that US poison control centres had received reports of more than 10 500 children younger than 5 being exposed to Tide Pods in 2016, and the number seems to be climbing since the craze became popular.
According to www.wsoctv.com, the idea of ingesting the pods first made headlines when satirical website The Onion published a story in 2015 about a child eating the pods after mistaking them for sweets.
In March 2017 comedy website College Humor shared a video called Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods showing a man downing a bowlful and being carted off by paramedics on a stretcher. Online videos show some teens choking, gagging and even vomiting when taking up the challenge, while others have taken to pan-frying packs before consuming them, sparking a deluge of memes poking fun at the new craze.
Jokes aside, Tide Pods manufacturer Procter & Gamble are taking it very seriously and tweeted: “What should Tide Pods be used for? Doing Laundry. Nothing else.”
The company added: “They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance, even if meant as a joke.”
YouTube has come on board by cracking down on challenge videos, stating: “We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.
“YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit content that’s meant to encourage activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm,” they said in an official statement.
Facebook has now followed suit and taken posts down, according to CNN.
So far, there have been no reported cases of the challenge encouraging South African teens, according to the Poison Information Centre, but parents have been urged to be alert.
I-dosing is an internet craze which attempts to alter the mind with a “digital high”.
Teens listen to specially-engineered music which they download online, resulting in a perceived drug high. Some claim the different digital recordings can simulate the euphoric effects of dagga, LSD, ecstasy and cocaine.
It’s exactly what it sounds like - youngsters pour vodka into their eye. Apparently they do this to avoid being caught with alcohol on their breath. The drink is quickly absorbed via the eye’s mucus membrane and enters the bloodstream. Because vodka contains up to 40 percent alcohol, eye-balling often results in burned corneas.
* If you suspect that your child has ingested a poisonous substance, call the Poison Information Helpline at 0861555777 or Emergency Services at 10111.