Living Well

Detergent Packets Cause Critical Illness in Toddler

Last updated: Jun 25, 2012

According to New Jersey Poison Control Center Drug Information and Professional Education Director Bruce Ruck, PharmD, a 2-year-old was recently placed on a ventilator after suffering respiratory distress from ingesting a single packet (or pod) of laundry detergent. The toddler’s symptoms included excessive vomiting, coughing, and lethargy. The toddler was the tenth New Jersey child placed on a ventilator after ingesting laundry detergent.

Poison centers across the United States have been receiving as many as 20 calls per day about serious symptoms in children who have ingested laundry detergent packaged in the small pods. Some of the children have had serious complications after the pods have burst in their mouths. Other children have had significant eye irritation from the detergents.

Concerns about toxicity of the laundry detergent packets prompted the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) and American Association of Poison Control Centers to issue a media release on May 18, 2012, urging parents to keep all packets of laundry detergent locked up and out of the reach of children.

In response to the NJPIES alert, Summit Medical Group pediatrician Michelle Bender, MD, FAAP, emphasizes the importance of keeping the single-pack detergent pods locked up and out of the reach of children. Dr. Bender notes, “Detergent pods often are the size of and look like a piece of candy. In addition, the pods sometimes include a brightly colored liquid that is likely to appeal to children. Because children cannot distinguish between the detergent pods and a piece of candy, it’s especially important to keep the pods locked up and out of your child’s reach. The same is true for all detergents,” she emphasizes, “including those used for dishwashers and other household cleaning chores.”

To protect your child from detergent poisoning, Summit Medical Group and NJPIES recommend:

  • Keeping all laundry and other detergents locked up and out of reach of children
  • Carefully following disposal instructions listed on the package label
  • Immediately calling the New Jersey Poison Experts help line at 1-800-222-1222 (or call 973-926-8008 if you are hearing impaired) if you believe your child has ingested laundry detergent
  • Programming the poison help line number into all family phones; program it on speed dial for land and office lines
  • Posting the poison help line number on or near all home and office phones

New Jersey Poison Experts are available 24/7 year around to answer questions that parents, teachers, caregivers, and others have about accidents involving cleaners and other products, chemicals, medications, plants, environmental contaminants, or other poisons. In addition, they will help you get prompt emergency services if needed.

When in doubt, check it out!
The New Jersey Poison Experts encourage anyone with any question to call and get an answer they seek, whether the question involves a serious incident or an answer needed for peace of mind.