FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A dangerous social media trend among teenagers could have deadly consequences and it is sickening kids right here in the Central Valley.
"I can assure that anyone who's ever tried it quickly discovered it's not a laughing matter," said Carlos Flores, the trauma coordinator for Valley Children's Hospital.
Just this weekend, Valley Children's had a young patient burned by laundry detergent pods, which may be the perfect example of the danger of first impressions.
"This right here is very colorful," Flores said as he showed Action News a red, white, and blue Tide laundry pod. "It looks like it could be candy or something that tastes good."
But they don't and yet in hundreds of videos -- shared millions of times -- teenagers are challenging each other to eat them.
Action News does not want to promote the videos, so we are only showing freeze frames and blurring the kids.
Almost all of them end with choking or gagging, but doctors say that is the least of your concerns after chewing on a pod and getting highly concentrated detergent in your mouth.
"They can cause burns in the mouth," said Dr. Rais Vohra, a medical toxicologist at UCSF Fresno. "If the liquid bursts open and goes in the back of the throat, they could cause burns in the back of the throat which would necessitate an ER visit or even ICU admission."
The National Poison Control Center says there's been a steep spike in the number of cases of teens misusing laundry pods just in the first two weeks of 2018 with more than 40 cases already and the Central Valley is not immune.
"We actually see cases here at Community Regional Medical Center," said Dr. Vohra, who is also medical director for the California Poison Control System. "At the poison control center we hear about cases from all over California, and so this is a statewide and local trend."
He has counted 3500 cases over two years.
Tide's parent company, Proctor and Gamble, tells us "nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use our products. They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance is, even if meant as a joke."
But teenage hijinks is not the only risk.
In fact, medical professionals say most of the patients they see are toddlers.
"They oftentimes will explore with their mouths just by picking up something off the floor and putting it inside their mouth," said Flore, the VCH registered nurse.
They say parents with toddlers should not even buy detergent pods.
Older patients are at risk too, especially people with dementia. They are the most likely to die from the burns because of other health issues.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission blamed the pods for at least six adult deaths in the last five years. Two toddlers have also died.
For any type of exposure, call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.