New kid danger: swallowing candy-colored laundry packets

9:29 PM, May 24, 2012   |    comments
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By Kim Painter, USA TODAY 

Brightly-colored little packets that combine laundry detergent with other cleaning agents are a new convenience for consumers -- and a new danger for kids.

Nearly 250 people have called poison centers in a past couple of months after small children swallowed or bit into the packets, the Associated Press reports. And some of the kids have gotten very sick -- much sicker than kids usually get when they swallow a little detergent, says an alert from The American Association of Poison Control Centers. For example, the association says:

  • A 15-month-old child developed "profuse vomiting" and had to be put on a ventilator at a hospital to keep breathing.
  • A 17-month-old child developed nausea and vomiting and also inhaled some of the product. That child also needed a ventilator.

"The rapid onset of significant symptoms is pretty scary," says Michael Beuhler, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Center. He says he's not sure what's making kids so sick.

Then there's the question of why toddlers are biting into cleaning products in the first place. One possibility: They look like candy, some parents and kids say. One blogging pediatrician says they look like toys -- and that the product is "engineered to dissolve rapidly in water so will do the same in a child's mouth."

The poison centers' warning does not name particular products, but one new brand on the market is Tide Pods, made by Procter and Gamble. The company says consumers should keep the product -- like all cleaning products -- out of the reach of children. And a Tide spokesperson told ABC News that the packets will start coming in child-proof containers this summer.

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