Toddlers increasingly swallowing liquid detergent capsules

September 5, 2012

Doctors are calling for improved safety warnings and childproof packaging for laundry and dishwasher detergent liquitabs, following a cluster of incidents in which toddlers have inadvertently swallowed the capsules.

The five cases, all of which occurred within the space of 18 months, are reported online in the . The youngest child was just 10 months old, and all the children were under the age of 2.

All five children were admitted to one hospital in Glasgow as emergencies, emitting a high pitched wheeze (stridor) indicative of a blockage in the airway.

All liquitabs contain strong alkaline , which have a powerful solvent action that can destroy tissue and cause intense inflammation and swelling, say the authors.

This can rapidly progress to airway blockage and potentially as the gullet tissue is eroded, which can be fatal.

The eldest of the five children was treated with antibiotics and steroids, but the other four required for several days to treat swelling and ulceration. In one child the swelling and ulceration was so extensive that surgery was required.

All the children recovered, but the authors point out that the incidents had "a on the child and family" and wasted valuable intensive care resources.

These five cases are not isolated incidents, they point out. Last year the National Poisoning Information Service received 647 phone calls and almost 4000 online searches about the eating/swallowing of the contents of liquid detergent capsules, from .

"This is an increase over the previous year's total and more than double the number of enquiries made for these types of products 5 years ago," they write.

They highlight other research showing the risk of severe eye injury as a result of young children getting hold of the contents of these capsules.

But most liquitabs do not come in childproof containers, and compliance with packaging is currently voluntary, say the authors.

"To help prevent future potentially life threatening injuries, improved and childproof packaging are urgently required," they argue, adding that they have written to the manufacturers, alerting them to the problem.

Parents also have their part to play in keeping these products out of the reach of children, they say.

"Dishwasher and washing machine liquitabs are now a common finding in most homes, but unfortunately, seem very attractive to young children due to their bright colouring and soft sweetie-like texture," they write.

"We feel that the increasing trend in liquid detergent capsule ingestion poses a significant public health issue," they add.

Explore further: P&G to add latches to make detergent packs safer

Related Stories

P&G to add latches to make detergent packs safer

May 25, 2012
(AP) -- Procter & Gamble says it will change the design of packaging for its miniature laundry detergent product to deter children from eating the brightly colored packets that look like candy.

Doctors report rise in kids eating detergent packs

May 24, 2012
(AP) -- Miniature laundry detergent packets arrived on store shelves in recent months as an alternative to bulky bottles and messy spills. But doctors across the country say children are confusing the tiny, brightly colored ...

Warning to parents over magnet danger to children

June 21, 2012
Doctors are asking parents to take extra care that their children do not swallow small magnets from toys, after two children required surgical intervention following ingestion of such small magnets. In a letter to the Lancet, ...

Nearly 1 in 4 grandparents store prescription medicines where children can easily find them

April 16, 2012
Unintentional poisonings from medicines cause more emergency room visits for young children each year than do car accidents.

Recommended for you

Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions

November 20, 2017
Diagnosing a concussion can sometimes be a guessing game, but clues taken from small molecules in saliva may be able to help diagnose and predict the duration of concussions in children, according to Penn State College of ...

Breastfed babies are less likely to have eczema as teenagers, study shows

November 13, 2017
Babies whose mothers had received support to breastfeed exclusively for a sustained period from birth have a 54% lower risk of eczema at the age of 16, a new study led by researchers from King's College London, Harvard University, ...

Obesity during pregnancy may lead directly to fetal overgrowth, study suggests

November 13, 2017
Obesity during pregnancy—independent of its health consequences such as diabetes—may account for the higher risk of giving birth to an atypically large infant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. ...

Working to reduce brain injury in newborns

November 10, 2017
Research-clinicians at Children's National Health System led the first study to identify a promising treatment to reduce or prevent brain injury in newborns who have suffered hypoxia-ischemia, a serious complication in which ...

Why do some kids die under dental anesthesia?

November 9, 2017
Anesthesiologists call for more research into child deaths caused by dental anesthesia in an article published online by the journal Pediatrics.

Probability calculations—even babies can master it

November 3, 2017
One important feature of the brain is its ability to make generalisations based on sparse data. By learning regularities in our environment it can manage to guide our actions. As adults, we have therefore a vague understanding ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.