Laundry pod poisoning: Protecting your family

Accidental exposure or consumption of laundry detergent packets by children can result in serious medical problems, so how can we prevent it?

Colorful laundry detergent packets.
Colorful laundry detergent packets can be enticing and dangerous for young children. Photo by US Consumer Product Safety Commission | MSU Extension

Individual laundry pods are often small and brightly colored, making them appealing to children. The American Academy of Poison Control Centers reports 10,574 instances of exposure to these laundry detergent pods by children under the age of 5 in 2020 alone.

Children do not have to eat a substance in order to be harmed or poisoned. They can ingest, inhale or absorb substances through the skin. Children who are exposed to laundry detergent packets may experience vomiting, wheezing, gasping, fatigue, breathing problems and vision problems (if the substance is exposed to the eyes).

How to protect your family

A parent’s most important job is keeping their children safe. It’s easy to think about the big dangers like crossing a street safely, but smaller dangers can go unnoticed. It is so important to protect our families from seemingly safe objects in our homes.

Michigan State University Extension recommends taking the following steps to protect your family from accidental poisoning from items such as laundry pods:

  • Post the number for Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222, near the phone or program it into your cell phone. You can call Poison Control 24 hours a day, seven days week.
  • Make sure all medicines and household products are sealed in their original containers. Keep them out of sight and reach of your children.
  • If you are in the process of taking a medication or using a household product and you get distracted by a phone call or other matter, take your child with you. Never leave your child unattended around open medication or household products.
  • When guests come to stay at your house, make sure any medications or substances they bring with them are stored correctly.

If your child is accidently poisoned, the Center for Disease Control suggests these steps:

  • If the child is unconscious or not breathing, call 911.
  • If the child is awake and alert, call 1-800-222-1222.

When placing a call, operators may ask you for the following information:

  • Child’s age and weight.
  • What your child ingested or was exposed to, specifically the container or bottle containing the poison, if available.
  • What time the poisoning occurred.

The operator will provide instructions on what to do, so it is important to stay calm and stay on the phone.

Careful planning can keep your child safe from home poisoning from laundry pods or other home products. For more information about laundry pod poisoning and other poison risks, check out the American Association of Poison Control Centers website or this helpful laundry detergent packets fact sheet.

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