What are the risks if a child swallows a laundry capsule? The consequences can be tragic

What are the risks if a child swallows a laundry capsule?  The consequences can be tragic

Although public awareness of the possible danger of swallowing laundry capsules is constantly increasing, and the products themselves have more child-proof protection, such cases still occur. We explain what this may lead to.

Laundry capsules are incredibly convenient to use – you don’t have to measure and pour the powder, just throw the ready capsule into the drum. They are simple and quick, but it turns out that they are also extremely dangerous. Small children are particularly exposed to the harmful effects of laundry capsules – this is due to the fact that the capsules are colorful and therefore look appetizing to children. Additionally, they have a pleasant texture and, most importantly, they are small in size, which means they fit perfectly into the baby’s mouth in one bite. However, the number of injured people among young people and older people is also growing.

Thousands of poisonings from laundry capsules – study results

The study on laundry capsules was conducted by specialists from the Center for Injury Research and Policy Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, Ohio, USA) and the Central Ohio Poison Center. They analyzed trends in the number of calls to poison control centers across the country resulting from exposure to the harmful effects of such liquid laundry detergents. Although over the years there has been a decline in exposure to such capsules among children under 6 years of age, such cases still occur. Additionally, such dangerous episodes are increasing among older children, teenagers and seniors. Scientists want to determine how they can reduce the toxicity of laundry capsules if they are swallowed.

The study found that over the past three years, U.S. poison control centers received 36,279 calls related to exposure to liquid laundry detergent capsules. Reports usually concerned children under 6 years of age – 87 percent. Of the reports, 97 percent concerned a single substance, and 99 percent of the incidents occurred at home. About 6 percent of exposures to a single substance resulted in serious health effects. During the study, nine deaths related to the consumption of laundry capsules were also recorded (these were adults, seven of them were over 70 years old). From 2014 to 2022, there were 114,826 cases of exposure to liquid laundry detergent packaging (laundry capsules), both single and multi-substance.

Laundry capsules are extremely dangerous to health

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in 2012 about the harmful effects of consuming laundry capsules. Between 2012 and 2013, over 7,000 cases of swallowing such a capsule by children under 5 years of age were reported. To reduce the risks, capsule manufacturers have introduced a number of changes, such as:

  • placing warnings,

  • opaque capsule packaging,

  • strengthening the product casing,

  • adding a very bitter-tasting chemical.

Despite the emphasis on increasing safety in this matter, there were discussions on the Internet about the “appetizing appearance of the capsules”, which were called “forbidden fruit” (Internet users compared them with food in photos). In turn, in 2018, an online challenge appeared during which people chewed or swallowed capsules on camera. The Internet trend resulted in as many dangerous incidents in January this year as in the previous two years. As a result, the videos began to be withdrawn.

What may result from swallowing a laundry capsule?

Swallowing a laundry capsule may result in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but it may also have much more serious consequences, which some people are unaware of. Such a harmful effect may also include difficulty swallowing due to damage to the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat and esophagus (sometimes this requires surgical treatment). However, there were also cases where:

  • convulsions,

  • damage to the respiratory system (which required connection to a respirator),

  • kidney dysfunction,

  • electrolyte level disturbances.

Although few people realize it, swallowing a washing capsule is much more dangerous than swallowing liquid or washing powder – this is due to the harmful, highly concentrated detergents contained in the washing capsules. The ingredients also include ethyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide).

How to protect children from swallowing laundry capsules?

Actions taken by adults to protect children against possible swallowing of laundry capsules are very important. Pediatricians and other health care professionals emphasize the importance of educating families about the dangers of such laundry capsules. Proper storage of this product is extremely important. Caregivers of children under 6 years of age (but also of people with dementia or intellectual disabilities) should use traditional laundry detergents instead of capsules.

How to protect your child from swallowing laundry capsules? Remember to:

  • keep laundry capsules in a place out of the reach of children (for example, a locked cabinet at a height to which the child cannot access),

  • If possible, equip the door of the cabinet where you keep the capsules with a special lock,

  • explain to the child that laundry capsules are dangerous and should not be touched or put into the mouth (remind children of this often),

  • When doing laundry, do not leave open capsule packages within the reach of children.

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