Despite growing warnings about accidental exposures to the contents of laundry pods in young children, the damage keeps piling up. A new study in JAMA Ophthalmology finds that liquid laundry detergent packets, which infants, toddlers, and preschoolers find attractive due to their candy-like appearance, are responsible for an increasing number of eye injuries. Chemical burns to the eye “surged 32-fold between 2012 and 2015 among preschool-aged kids,” according to A. Pawlowski, resulting in severe and sometimes permanent vision damage:
Kids who were injured were probably squeezing and popping the packets, leading the contents to squirt into their eyes; or they got the detergent on their hands and then rubbed their eyes. Almost 85 percent of the injuries happened at home, the study notes.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers can now add ocular burns to the list of injuries these colorful laundry pods can cause to unsuspecting children:
Poison centers receive many calls each year about children getting into laundry detergent. Swallowing it often causes mild stomach upset, if there are any symptoms at all, but poison center experts say the new highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry detergent packets seem to be different.
Some children who have gotten the product in their mouths have had excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some get very sleepy. Some have had breathing problems serious enough to need a ventilator to help them breathe. There have also been reports of corneal abrasions (scratches to the eyes) when the detergent gets into a child’s eyes.
The study’s author gives Pawlowski advice on preventing injuries from laundry pods:
Haring urged parents to put the packets up and away and out of sight, in the same way the CDC advises to keep medicines away from children.
If your child squirts or rubs the contents of the packet into his eye, the first and most important thing to do is to rinse it under cool water for 20 minutes, then take your child to the emergency room or an ophthalmologist who can see you immediately, he said.
“The longer that these chemicals stay in the eye, the more likely they are to cause permanent damage to vision and the eye itself,” Haring warned.
And always keep this information handy:
The number for your local poison control center is:
Read previous warnings about laundry pods on The PediaBlog here.