Laundry detergent packets: How dangerous are they to kids?

Laundry detergent packets: How dangerous are they to kids?Convenient and easy to use, detergent packets like Tide Pods, All mighty pacs or Purex Ultrapacks often are found in homes with young children. The packets are designed to dissolve quickly when exposed to water in the washing machine. They are colorful and squishy — some even look like candy or a toy — making them attractive to kids.

Poison centers receive many calls each year about children getting into laundry detergents. Usually, swallowing laundry detergent causes only mild irritation, sometimes diarrhea, or even no symptoms at all. Wisconsin Poison Center toxicologists say the new laundry packets seem to be different.

Sucking on, eating or squeezing one of these new packets can cause:

  • Long-term vomiting
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Breathing issues, including wheezing and gasping or the need a ventilator to help with breathing
  • Severe eye irritation

In 2012, Wisconsin Poison Center handled more than 100 cases related to laundry detergent packets. These cases all involved young children who either squeezed or put their mouths on the packets, causing them to erupt into their faces or mouths. Many callers said the packets “exploded.” There were no deaths, but the accidents did cause injuries. More than half of the children ended up going to a doctor’s office or emergency room.

If you have young children, you should:

  • Always keep detergents capped, locked up high and out of the reach of children.
  • Follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Call Wisconsin Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately if you think a child has come in contact with this detergent.

Meg Lesnick- Meg Lesnick, external relations specialist, Wisconsin Poison Center

The Wisconsin Poison Center, located in Milwaukee, provides 24-hour, toll-free poison information for all individuals in Wisconsin. For any poison emergency, call (800) 222-1222

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