Laundry pods are easily mistaken for food by seniors with dementia.

The latest Internet craze which has been sweeping the country calls for people to pop a laundry detergent pod into their mouth, just to see all the possible comic outcomes. Young people especially have adopted this challenge as their own, and have posted thousands of videos online about the humorous foaming-at-the-mouth outcomes and coughing fits which are possible. Private duty caregivers in and around the Marysville area would like to make sure everyone understands that there is a far more dangerous potential outcome from biting into these laundry pods - and they don't only involve youngsters and children.

The Appeal of Laundry Pods

First of all, they look like candy. Laundry pods might be very effective at cleaning your clothes because of their concentrated cleaning agents, but they are also multi-colored objects that look a lot like a little pillow of sweet confection. How could anything that looks so appealing be harmful in any way? These pods first appeared in 2012 and were intended to be the ultimate convenience for adding detergent to a load of laundry, since no measurements were necessary, and no messes resulted from pouring.

All you had to do was toss a laundry pod right into your batch of clothes, and press 'GO'. The appeal of convenience was tremendous for people washing their laundry - and soon the appeal of shiny, brightly-colored pods also attracted youngsters who may have seen Mom or Dad at work by the washing machine. It wasn't long before kids discovered that biting into one of these pods produced the same kind of foaming effect that it does in the laundry tank, except in your mouth.

The Danger of Pods

The foaming and the coughing spells induced in those who bite into the pods is no laughing matter though, and the consequences of taking the Pod Challenge can actually be pretty severe. The detergent itself is wrapped in a covering of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is a plastic compound that becomes soluble in water. That means it will also dissolve in a person's mouth, where the saliva will cause the covering to disintegrate, and the contents to be spilled out into the mouth, readily absorbed into the system.

Those cleaning agents inside the pod are harmless in a washing machine where they belong, but inside a human body they can become deadly chemicals that disrupt many of the body's major systems, and can even cause life-threatening situations. As they proceed down the esophagus, the corrosive element in them can burn the lining of the throat, then cause major changes to blood pressure, to gastrointestinal functionality, and they can even trigger blackouts or other neurological issues. The nose and eyes can become irritated, kidney problems can arise, and there can be permanent damage to the lungs - all caused by the chemicals inside the cleaning pods.

How Seniors are Affected 

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 25,000 children in the U.S. have been harmed in some way by biting into laundry pods, and there have even been at least two deaths since the introduction of the product. However, there have been at least six deaths of seniors during that same time frame, and thousands more who were harmed by either accidental or unknowing ingestion.

The biggest danger to seniors has been related to the fact that seniors with some form of dementia will commonly attempt to eat objects which appear food-like, but which are in fact inedible. This is practically a product description for laundry detergent pods. Experts on Alzheimer's Disease consider it extremely likely that a senior who has the disease could wander into the kitchen and find a box of laundry pods, misidentify them as some kind of cereal, and pour them into a bowl with some milk.

The same experts declare that observations have shown that seniors with mild to moderate dementia will also routinely come across the shiny, brightly-colored packets, and simply pop them in their mouths because they look so appealing. This has, in fact, happened many times already, and other misidentifications have also occurred with regularity for unsupervised seniors suffering from mental decline.

Coping With the Risks of Laundry Pods

It isn't likely that the risks associated with laundry pods will go away anytime soon - especially since pod sales now account for at least 17% of all detergent sales in this country, and for one major manufacturer, it accounts for almost 80% of the total marketed product. That means it is incumbent upon loved ones and people who are in the immediate circle of elderly individuals to mitigate the dangers associated with accidental ingestion of laundry pods.

Fortunately, this does not call for any kind of difficult intervention. All that's really necessary is that any box of pods in the home be kept well out of the reach of a senior who could conceivably access that box and get the wrong idea. If ever there was a powerful illustration of the old saying 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' - this would be one of those cases.