Detergent pod poisoning a concern for parents

BOISE -- A local mom recently posted on Facebook about her son being hospitalized after eating a laundry detergent pod. Her post has gone viral in the Treasure Valley in the last week.

Dr. Mark Urban, the Pediatric Emergency Medical Director at St. Luke's, talked to KTVB about why dish and laundry detergent pods or packets can be especially dangerous to kids.

"We're seeing a rapid increase in this over the years, kids ingesting these laundry packets," Urban said. "The main reason for that is a lot of times they're not stored like other household cleaners, they're left under the kitchen sink or even out if the parents have put one in the dishwasher and forgot to put the box away."

Urban says while there is a national trend, fortunately, here they've only seen a couple cases of detergent pod poisoning. But he says this type of poisoning can be particularly dangerous because of the different components.

"Each manufacturer will differ somewhat in the components that go into each packet, but the main packet is usually a polyvinyl alcohol that is rapidly disolvable, so you put it in the dishwasher and it reacts with water, and dissolves, releasing the chemicals. The issue is the polyvinyl alcohol is water soluble and if you eat it, it can be absorbed by the body. So you can potentially get the poisoning from that in and of itself," Urban said.

Inside the packets, the different chemicals can burn the inside of the mouth or throat or get into the blood.

"Some of them can also be absorbed by the body, and that can cause some problems, particularly what we call metabolic acidosis, which is just a fancy way of saying it decreases the body's pH in the blood system which can lead to respiratory issues, mental status changes, and potentially even death," Urban said.

Detergent packages KTVB found do contain warnings to keep them away from kids and have written labels that the pods are harmful if swallowed.

Urban says parents need to be careful and store the pods just like any other household cleaner: Up high and locked away from curious hands and mouths.

"With all of the major brands and some offbrands, they all look like candy just because there are so many different chemicals separated and the colors are very attractive to a kid that age," Urban said.

Urban says signs of poisoning include vomiting, lethargy, difficulty breathing and excessive drooling. So if you see any of those things, you may want to get your child checked out.

He says to call 911 if a child is showing symptoms and parents are concerned. If a parent suspects a child may have eaten something potentially harmful, he says they should call a poison center by dialing 1-800-222-1222.


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