Dr. Mom: Colorful detergent a poison danger to children

09/20/2012 12:00 AM

09/19/2012 1:32 PM

Doing laundry is one of those mundane, never-ending chores.

Anything to make the process easier and less of a hassle is no doubt a welcome prospect. This could be why this year has seen these new, bright and visually appealing laundry detergent pods or capsules hitting the shelves nationwide.

These "single dose pack" pods boast cleaner, brightener and stain-remover all in one.

Awesome, right?

Well, as appealing as they are to adults, they are even more so to the toddler set.

If you have some or have seen them, you know they kind of look like candy.

They have a thin, membranelike covering with brightly colored (and potentially dangerous) liquid chemicals inside.

And therein lies the danger to children under 5 years old.

Toddlers explore with their senses, especially touch and taste. If they happen to get their hands on them, those pods will either go in their mouth right away or soon after kids squish them in their tiny hands for a while. The outer membrane is made to dissolve quickly, thus the rapid exposure to the inner chemicals.

The Poison Control Center put out an alert in May warning health care providers and parents of this very real danger to children. If ingested, the alkaline chemicals contained in these pods cause significant soft- tissue damage, swelling and burning. Eye injuries have been reported, too.

So far, estimates of children injured by these pods in the United States alone are up to 2,950. Unlike regular laundry detergents that if ingested cause mild upset stomach, these pods cause rapid symptoms of vomiting, burning and difficulty breathing.

Children are at significant risk for airway swelling, obstructing their ability to breathe. A few children have had to be put on a ventilator for airway support. Thankfully, no deaths have been reported.

Still, the uptick in injuries is a reminder for us parents to keep these laundry detergent pods up and away, preferably in a childproof cabinet. Do not allow young children to help you with this part of the laundry chore.

If your child does get hold of these pods and you're unsure of the extent of exposure, call the Poison Control Center right away.

Keep the number for poison control in plain sight at all times: (800) 222-1222.

And remember: Toddlers are curious by nature. I will never forget the winter I was battling the flu and on around-the-clock ibuprofen for my body aches. A wayward tablet found its way into my then-toddler's mouth.

"M&M" she announced with a sour expression on her face.

That's the thing about our curious young children – we need to be one step ahead of them as far as safety is concerned. Your once too-small toddler may be able to reach into a cabinet, and seemingly innocuous detergent packs disguised as candy (at least to a toddler anyway) are anything but.

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