Our First Call to Poison Control

When it comes to detergent, I was always an equal opportunist. Whatever happened to be on sale was the one that was getting purchased. This is how I came to possess two large bags of Tide POD detergents in a flashy purple color. I didn’t think much of them but placed them where I normally place our detergent, on the top shelf of our laundry room cabinet.

A few days later, I was busy helping my oldest son pour a glass of milk in the kitchen. As he was pulling out the milk, I heard what sounded like someone throwing up. I ran down the hall, towards the playroom, and saw my youngest coming out of the laundry room next door, projectile vomiting everywhere. My immediate thought was that he had a flu bug, but, it was violent and he looked panicked. That is when I saw the empty POD capsule laying on the ground next to my open, front loader washing machine. My 2 year old had used the front loader to hike his leg up and climb on top of the washing machine. He had seen the packaging, opened it, and popped one in his mouth. I had my eyes off of him for about 3 minutes. It happened so quickly.

The vomiting subsided and I urgently called my husband who is in the healthcare field. I was having trouble containing my panic, and my normally calm husband was also very concerned. But instead of telling me to go to the Emergency Department, he suggested that I try not to panic and to call Poison Control right away. I was hesitant, thinking I should either call an ambulance or drive to the nearest hospital across town. Considering that our son was not having breathing issues, he encouraged me to call PC and he assured me that they would be able to tell us exactly what to do in a timely manner.

The American Association of Poison Control number is 1 (800) 222-1222. When you call, they will quickly take down some basic information about you and then let you tell them exactly what precipitated your phone call. In my case, I found the operator to be extremely calm and factual. I was concerned that she would be condescending or “judgey” but she was the opposite, and she made me feel immediately relieved.

She listened to his symptoms and then let me know that typically the worst cases occur when the child has swallowed the entire pod. Apparently, the way the PODS are designed, they almost always immediately burst upon being touched by even the slightest amount of water. I was extremely lucky that he spit out the casing after it exploded in his mouth. She informed me that unlike regular detergents, the PODS usually cause extreme vomiting in children, and it is not known exactly why this happens. In our case, he had vomited, which was a good thing, and his breathing was not labored. The first 30 minutes are the most crucial and if there are any breathing issues, poison control will tell you to call 911 right away. My youngest had some interesting bowel movements in the days following, but had otherwise returned to his normal self.

That day I threw the entire large bag of PODS away. I didn’t even want to donate considering how easily they can harm a child. My son had never shown an interest in them before, but they are brightly colored and look like a large piece of candy, so it is not surprising that toddlers go after them. I mistakenly thought that the height of the cabinet ensured they were out of reach. Now I lock up everything and I avoid buying anything that resembles a POD–detergent, dishwashing squares, fabric softener.

Ours wasn’t the first or last child to be harmed by this product–Tide actually agreed to a redesign of the PODS products after 250 reported cases of children eating them in 2012 alone, including a 7-month-old who died after getting ahold of one.

If you are ever in a situation where your child has consumed something or has touched something that is hazardous, Poison Control is a great resource with wealth of knowledge, who can help you decide the best course of action.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a mom of two very active boys and certified personal trainer who lives and writes in sunny Tucson, Arizona. 

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One Response to “Our First Call to Poison Control”

  1. Judge Dredd says:

    Never buy pods. They are bad for the environment. Only lazy people buy pods. Pods single the end of days.