Are Laundry Packets Really That Dangerous?

A recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology stated that an increasing number of toddlers are suffering eye burns as a result of coming into contact with laundry packets. We spoke to Dr. Kenneth Kwon, director of pediatric emergency services at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital, about what parents should know about this hidden household danger.

Q: Are laundry packets a serious danger to children? Should parents be concerned?

A:  Yes, they are a serious danger. The colorful and candy-like appearance of these packets makes them particularly attractive and dangerous to children.

Q: There are many products in a typical home that could be harmful if accidentally ingested. Where do laundry packets fall on the scale?

A:  On a scale of 1 to 10, with ingesting cyanide or a poison causing death in minutes considered a ten, the chemicals in these laundry packets would be an 8. Standard liquid household detergents, such as bleach, would be considered a 3 or 4. However, due to the concentrated nature of the chemicals in these laundry packets, they are much more likely to cause serious injury in a very short period of time if ingested. These liquids are alkali in nature and are considered caustic substances, similar to acidic chemicals. The public may be under the misconception that alkali chemicals are less dangerous than acidic chemicals, but when ingested, alkali chemicals tend to cause much deeper and serious injuries to the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract than acidic substances.

Q: Another common injury stemming from laundry packets is eye burns. Why are eyes so susceptible to damage? What treatment can parents do at home?

A:  Eyes are particularly susceptible because children tend to bite into or try to open these packets, and contents can very easily splash into the eyes causing burns to the cornea and surrounding parts of the eye. The cornea, which is the top layer of the eye, has little to no blood supply, which can impair or limit healing, leading to permanent vision problems. The most common symptoms of an eye burn are pain, redness, tearing and vision problems. If you suspect that your child may have an eye burn, irrigate the area under cold running water for at least ten minutes and then take the child immediately to the ED for further irrigation and treatment.

Q: Children often get into laundry packets, or other household chemicals, when left unattended only for a moment. What are the warning signs parents should be aware of that their child has ingested something dangerous?

A:  Commons signs include difficult or painful swallowing, drooling, oral pain, chest or abdominal pain, vomiting, excessive crying, or breathing or speech problems.

Q: How can parents know what to treat at home versus when to seek emergency medical care?

A:  If known or suspected exposure to laundry packets with any symptoms, bring your child immediately to the ED. If the eye is involved, irrigate with running water for at least 10 minutes before transport. Administration of a neutralizing or diluting agent is not recommended for a suspected ingestion. If possible exposure to an opened packet with no symptoms, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 for further direction.

Q: What can parents do to prevent their children from getting their hands on laundry packets or other chemicals or medication in the home?

A:  The best prevention is elimination of laundry packets from the home. Since there are so many cleaning detergent alternatives available, why even introduce laundry packets into the home at all if you have small children?  If these packets are in the home, make sure to keep them high up in overhead cabinets in the laundry room out of reach of children. Certainly avoid storing these packets in the kitchen or pantry area, as they can easily be mistaken for food or candy. Lastly, periodically check your house to make sure that dangerous medications and chemicals are safely out of reach of toddlers and children. Childproofing the home should occur as regularly as cleaning your home.

Want more health tips like these sent straight to your inbox?

Sign up for our KidsHealth e-newsletter.

Related posts:

  • Carbon Monoxide in the Home: What Parents Should Know
    Parents understand the importance of having working smoke detectors in the home to protect their family in case of fire, but sometime carbon monoxide detectors fly under the radar, says ...
  • Home Safety Tips for the Whole Family
    Kids have more freedom as they get older, which teaches them independence and nurtures their curiosity, but they can often overestimate what they’re capable of doing. Most injuries for kids ...
  • Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe in the Home
    Children under the age of 5 are at the greatest risk for getting injured at home, says CHOC Children’s community educator Amy Frias.  Of course, the biggest reason is that’s ...

Carbon Monoxide in the Home: What Parents Should Know

Parents understand the importance of having working smoke detectors in the home to protect their family in case of fire, but sometime carbon monoxide detectors fly under the radar, says Amy Frias, a community educator at CHOC Children’s and coordinator of Safe Kids Orange County.

Carbon monoxide is a gas you cannot see, taste or smell, and it can be extremely dangerous to children when they’re exposed to unhealthy levels.

Fuel-powered devices that aren’t properly functioning can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home with no warning unless you have a working carbon monoxide detector, says Frias. Faulty furnaces or heaters, portable generators, water heaters, clothes dryers, or cars left running in the garage, can all result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

It’s important for parents to know what can create high levels of carbon dioxide in the home and avoid these activities, says Frias.

  • Don’t use a grill indoors
  • Don’t leave a car running in the garage even if the doors are open
  • Never use the stove or oven to heat your home
  • Ensure vents (stove, furnace, fireplace, stove) are free or debris
  • Store gasoline properly: keep it in a locked location away from children and living spaces, in a well-ventilated area away from any heat sources.

Children process carbon monoxide differently than adults and can experience harsher side effects. Early symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting. Each year, carbon monoxide exposure results in 15,000 emergency department visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Frias offers tips on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector. Install one on every level of your home, particularly in bedrooms, and keep them 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.
  • Remember that carbon monoxide detectors are not a substitute for smoke detectors.
  • Detectors only detect high levels of carbon monoxide when they are properly functioning. Check the batteries often and replace the unit every five to seven years depending on manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Ensure alarms are linked throughout the home so when one sounds, they all sound.

If you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, or your alarm detects a hazardous level, leave the area immediately and get fresh air, and call 911.

Related posts:

  • Are Laundry Packets Really That Dangerous?
    Toddlers are suffering eye burns as a result of coming into contact with laundry packets. Learn what parents need to know about this hidden household danger.
  • Home Safety Tips for the Whole Family
    Kids have more freedom as they get older, which teaches them independence and nurtures their curiosity, but they can often overestimate what they’re capable of doing. Most injuries for kids ...
  • Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe in the Home
    Children under the age of 5 are at the greatest risk for getting injured at home, says CHOC Children’s community educator Amy Frias.  Of course, the biggest reason is that’s ...

Home Safety Tips for the Whole Family

Kids have more freedom as they get older, which teaches them independence and nurtures their curiosity, but they can often overestimate what they’re capable of doing. Most injuries for kids up to five years old occur in or around the home, so keep in mind these home safety tips for older children, to protect kids of all ages in your home.

“Older children tend to take more risks, so we as parents must walk a fine line between bubble-wrapping our kids and protecting them,” says Amy Frias, community educator at CHOC Children’s and Safe Kids Orange County coordinator.

  • Batteries. Keep batteries and battery-operated devices out of sight and out of reach. If your child ingests a battery, seek emergency medical attention or call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline, 202-625-3333.
  • Burns. Getting kids involved in cooking your family’s meals can be a great way to encourage healthy eating habits later in life, but should be done under careful supervision. Don’t hold a small child when using the stove, and always keep sharp and hot objects out of reach.
  • Carbon monoxide. In addition to a working smoke alarm, ensure your home has a carbon monoxide detector and check its batteries regularly.
  • Choking. Even when kids are old enough to start learning how to use utensils themselves, make sure food is cut into bite-size pieces. When purchasing a toy or game, take into account the size of its pieces. Keep small items such as magnets, makeup or batteries out of reach, as they could be confused for a toy or candy. Cords and strings from window blinds should also be kept out of reach to prevent choking. Move furniture away from windows to prevent choking on cords, or falls.
  • Falls. Install window locks that prevent openings greater than four inches, yet could still be easily removed by an adult in the event of an emergency. Children under 10 years old should not be on a top bunk of a bunk bed. Use liners underneath rugs and in the bathtub to prevent falls. Secure-top heavy furniture to the wall.
  • Fire. Make a fire escape plan. Establish a place to meet in the event of a fire in your home, and remind children that getting out safely should be their first priority.
  • Medicine. Remind children that medicine is not candy. Medication should be stored out of reach and out of sight, and in a locked location. Keep in mind that medicine is usually stored in more places than just a medicine cabinet, and can usually also be found in a purse, nightstand, etc.

Related posts:

Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe in the Home

Children under the age of 5 are at the greatest risk for getting injured at home, says CHOC Children’s community educator Amy Frias.  Of course, the biggest reason is that’s where they spend the majority of their time.  Their curiosity and inability to comprehend danger are additional challenges parents need to consider.

In this CHOC Radio segment, Frias discusses the basics of home safety.  Before bringing a baby home, parents need to ensure the environment is safe.  Don’t wait until the little one starts rolling over or crawling — those milestones arrive quicker than parents think.

Listen to the segment for some helpful tips to keep little ones safe in your home.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

Related posts:

Home Safety Tips Every Parent and Caregiver Must Know

Children under the age of 5 are at the greatest risk of hurting themselves in the home because that is where children spend most of their time learning and growing. Forty percent of unintentional injuries occur in and around the home. The good news is that most of these injuries can be prevented.

Just in time for National Trauma Awareness Month in May, please be sure to check out the following injury prevention tips:

home safety

Bathroom

  • Put a lock on the medicine cabinet to help prevent a poisoning.
  • Put a toilet lock on toilet lid to help prevent drowning.
  • Turn down hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to help prevent scalds and burns.

Child’s Room

  • Move furniture away from windows to help prevent falls.
  • Wind up or cut blind cords to help prevent strangulation.
  • Always use straps on changing table to help prevent falls.
  • Always place baby on his/her back to sleep.
  • Remove soft bedding and stuffed animals from cribs to help prevent suffocation.

Family Room

  • Use window stops or locks so windows do not open more than 4 inches to help prevent falls.
  • Put corner protectors on tables with sharp corners to help prevent injuries from falls.
  • Keep toys and small objects away from children to help prevent choking.
  • Install outlet protectors in all outlets to help prevent electrocution.

Kitchen

  • Always strap your child in a high chair to help prevent falls.
  • Cut all round-shaped foods into small pieces to help prevent choking (hot dogs, carrots, grapes).
  • Install stair gate to help prevent falls.
  • Put sharp objects in a locked drawer to help prevent cuts.
  • Keep all buckets stored upside down to help prevent drowning.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers including Poison Control by the phone. Poison Control 1-800-222-1222.

For more safety tips around the home, visit our community education page.

Learn more about pediatric emergency and trauma services at CHOC.

 

Related posts: