Baby Nearly Dies After Eating Laundry Pod, Mother Warns of Risk

April 18, 2019 Updated: April 18, 2019

A Rhode Island mother is speaking out to warn other parents about the hazard of a dangerous fad after her baby spent three days on life support after eating a laundry pod.

Cotter Cunha was 1 year old when he accidentally ingested a pod he mistook for candy, according to Yahoo News.  Two years after the incident, the child still suffers from breathing issues, according to Katelyn Cunha Flores, the mother.

Flores rushed her little boy to the hospital in July 2017 after noticing that he had swallowed the contents of a laundry pod, according to the report.

“I turned around to see what was wrong and I saw his hands were covered in something,” Flores said, according to The Mirror. “That’s when I noticed the plastic of the pod hanging out of his mouth.”

The concentrated detergent burned the child’s esophagus and stomach lining, The Mirror reported, and caused swelling to the boy’s respiratory system.

The child’s airway was swollen so much that doctors had to use a tube designed for a much smaller baby for intubation.

Following surgery, the child was placed in the intensive care unit, where “he was hooked up to so many machines,” Flores told The Mirror, “I couldn’t even count them all.”

Cotter was released from the hospital on July 6.

The damage to the child’s air passages have healed, according to the report, but he continues to have trouble breathing.

Rana Duff, who set up a GoFundMe campaign on the family’s behalf on July 4, 2017, wrote: “Katelyn is pleading with all parents and relatives of small children NOT to use these laundry pods. The convenience is not worth the risk. No matter how careful and attentive you are, all it takes is one small distraction for one short second for someone’s entire world to be turned upside down.”

Danger of Laundry Pods

Data released by the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 2,097 cases this year up to March 31, 2019, related to laundry pod exposure in children aged 5 and younger.

“Highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry detergent can cause serious harm to young children,” AAPCC notes. “The membrane increasing the soap is designed to dissolve when in contact with moisture, creating a risk of exposure when placed in the mouth or handled by wet hands.”

laundry detergent pod
FILE—A laundry detergent pod in Houston, Texas, on May 24, 2012. (Pat Sullivan/AP Photo)

The number of laundry detergent packet cases that children under 5 swallowed or bit into hit a peak in 2015, reaching 13,112 incidents, according to AAPCC data.

While convenient, laundry detergent packets pose a risk to young children, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The hospital describes the packets as “the perfect size and shape to be picked up” by toddlers, who may then put it into their mouths.

“The colorful packets can also look like candy or juice to a young child,” according to the hospital. “Any kind of detergent can be harmful, but the chemicals in laundry detergent packets are especially concentrated. Children who swallow those chemicals have had trouble breathing, have lapsed into comas, and have had other serious health problems. There have even been a few deaths. Even just touching the chemicals can cause burns and other injuries.”

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital notes that children younger than 3 years old account for most laundry detergent packet exposures.

The National Capital Poison Center advises, “If a child bites into a detergent pod, remove it immediately. Wash the child’s face and hands. Gently wipe out the child’s mouth.”

The NCPC described the case of a 7-month-old boy “who bit into a laundry pod.”

“He began coughing immediately and was taken to an emergency room in an ambulance,” the NCPC noted. “An hour later, the boy was dead. Autopsy results confirmed the laundry pod ingestion as the cause of death.”

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