For years the IPC has received calls involving a child getting into laundry detergent. Luckily, an unintentional taste of powder or liquid laundry detergent by a child is expected to cause minimal toxicity: throat or stomach irritation at the worst. In fact, most children don’t develop any symptoms at all. However, over the past couple months we (and the other poison centers in the country) have been seeing a new formulation of laundry detergent that is causing alarming toxicity. These are the ‘single use’ pods/packs that contain highly concentrated liquid detergent.
With these single use packs, the majority of ingestions result in symptoms, usually vomiting, sometimes repeated episodes. Additionally, some kids have developed drowsiness and/or respiratory problems and have gotten really sick! Below are some examples from our fellow poison centers in other states:
- Ten minutes after swallowing the contents of a laundry detergent packet, a 20-month-old child developed profuse vomiting, wheezing and gasping and then became unresponsive to even painful stimuli.
- A 15-month-old who bit into a pack and swallowed a mouthful had profuse vomiting and, after arrival at a hospital, had to be put on a ventilator for airway protection.
- A 17-month-old bit into a packet and then rapidly developed drowsiness, vomited, breathed the product into the lungs, and had to be put on a ventilator.
Laundry detergents, even concentrated ones, would not be expected to cause drowsiness, let alone the level of unresponsiveness seen in these cases. Investigation into which ingredient in these formulations is the culprit is ongoing. Meanwhile, if you have this type of product in your home, the IPC along with the American Association of Poison Control Centers is strongly advising parents to be extremely vigilant about keeping these products locked up, out of reach and out of sight of children. If you think anyone may have been exposed to any laundry detergent, please call the IPC immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
Don’t forget to check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.
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