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Children's Health

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Laundry Packs Tempting to Children

Young Children Mistake Brightly Colored Gel Packs and Pods for Candy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 5, 2012 -- For the second time this year, doctors are sounding the alarm about the dangers of laundry pods and gel packs to kids.

Brightly colored, with a gummy texture, researchers say children appear to be mistaking the powerful cleaning agents for candy.

In some ways, this is nothing new. Poison control experts say curious kids have always gotten into household cleaners. What's different this time, they say, is how severely kids can get injured in a relatively short amount of time.

A bite into the packs can cause drooling and vomiting and may burn the mouth, throat, eyes, and lungs.

"Certainly, the children we've seen have had pretty severe injuries from chemical contact with the soaps," says Lyndsay Fraser, MD. Fraser is an ear, nose, and throat doctor at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland.

Children Biting Laundry Soap Packs

In the new report, Fraser and her colleagues describe the cases of five children treated in the emergency room after biting into laundry detergent capsules.

All the children were younger than age 2. The oldest was released after treatment with steroids and antibiotics. The others needed breathing tubes to prop open their swollen and damaged airways. One needed surgery. All eventually recovered.

The report is published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Fraser says these are not isolated cases. "There are some data nationally to suggest that these cases are on the increase," she says.

That mirrors a similar rise in the U.S.

According to the National Association of Poison Control Centers (NAPCC), there were 2,950 reports of kids coming into contact with laundry gel packs from January through August.

The NAPCC sent out an alert about the problem in May.

"You have these unexpectedly severe outcomes that we weren't really seeing with the liquid detergent preparations," maybe because the new packs are far more concentrated than liquids, says Michael Beuhler, MD, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte, N.C.

In response, Tide promised to make its Pods container, which looks like a cookie jar, more difficult for kids to get into. The new container has two latches that have to be pushed at the same time before the lid can be opened.

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