By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter
Physicians in the UK are calling for improved warnings and more child-proof packaging for liquid cleaning capsules after a number of incidents in which toddlers were hospitalized after swallowing them.
Writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Lyndsey Fraser (Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow) and colleagues describe five cases of children under the age of 2 years who were admitted to their hospital after swallowing dishwasher or washing machine liquitabs over the past 18 months.
"This is an increase over the previous year's total and more than double the number of enquiries made for these types of products 5 years ago," they write.
The children were all admitted as emergencies with stridor, or high-pitched wheeze, indicating a blocked airway.
The cleaning agents present in liquitabs are strongly alkaline with a solvent action that can result in extreme inflammation and swelling, as well as tissue damage.
Of the five children admitted, the oldest (22 months) was managed conservatively with steroids and antibiotics, but the other four had to be intubated for several days to manage the swelling and ulceration caused by the contents of the liquitabs. One child even required surgery to repair the damage caused.
The authors of the letter emphasize that these five cases are by no means isolated, with 647 phone calls and 4000 online searches made to the National Poisoning Information Service in the UK in 2011 by healthcare professionals regarding eating or swallowing liquid-detergent capsules.
Fraser and team argue that "improved safety warnings and childproof packaging are urgently required," to prevent further injuries.
"Dishwasher and washing machine liquitabs are now a common finding in most homes, but unfortunately, seem very attractive to young children due to their bright colouring and soft sweetie-like texture," they write.
"We feel that the increasing trend in liquid detergent capsule ingestion poses a significant public health issue," they add.
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