'We got very lucky': 1-year-old boy nearly died after he accidentally ate a laundry pod that he mistook for candy

April 20, 2019  18:17

A Rhode Island mother says her son is very lucky to be alive after he accidentally ate a toxic laundry pod that he mistook for candy.

Katelyn Cunha Flores, from Pawtucket, said she was doing laundry in July 2017 ahead of a family trip to New Hampshire for Independence Day while her then one-year-old son, Cotter Cunha, was playing with his toys on the floor.

Suddenly he screamed and, when Flores turned around, she saw the plastic of the pod hanging out of his mouth.

Cotter's airway was so swollen, surgeons were forced to intubate him using a tube designed for a much smaller baby before hooking him up to a life support machine.

He was on life support at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence for three days, but luckily recovered.

Flores is now urging other parents to not use the laundry pods if they can and is calling for the capsules to be redesigned so that they don't look 'appetizing' to young children.

Flores, 30, said that after she washed out her son's mouth, she rushed him to the ER, and he was quickly admitted for emergency surgery.

'In that surgery they also carried out an endoscopy, which showed that parts of his esophagus were burned and the top of his stomach lining,' she said.

Pods, first introduced to the market in 2012, contain laundry detergent, softener and other soap types enclosed in dissolvable plastic discs.

The chemistry of the pack is roughly the same as in liquid detergents, including alkylbenzenesulfonates - the most common organic compound found in detergent).

The water-soluble pouch is typically made of Polyvinyl alcohol or a derivative of it.

Although the formulas are similar, a detergent pod's liquids may contain only 10 percent water compared to 50 percent in liquid detergents.

Because of this, the solution inside of the capsule has a much higher concentration that conventional detergent - powder or liquid.

Research has found that accidental swallowing of conventional detergent generally results in a mild upset stomach.

However, with highly concentrated detergent pods, accidental ingestion can cause excessive vomiting, lethargy, and gasping.

'After his surgery he was placed in the pediatric ICU and he was hooked up to so many machines, I couldn't even count them all,' Flores said.

'That night his airway was so compromised, he began turning purple. He coded because he wasn't able to breathe.

'I didn't think he would make it through. It was the most awful night of my life.'

Luckily, doctors stabilized Cotter, but were unable determine the long-term impact the injury would have on his respiratory and digestive systems.

After three days on life support, Cotter began to cough, which gave doctors hope that he was strong enough to breathe on his own.

Cotter was extubated and released from hospital on July 6 and placed on a strict diet of low-acid, pureed foods for two weeks.

Almost two years after the incident, Cotter still has trouble breathing when he is sick or when he coughs.

'After this happened, they discovered Cotter had a birth defect, meaning that his airway was already a different shape,' Flores said.

'When he gets sick now or coughs, it is a really harsh cough. It sounds like he has croup.'

Cotter also uses a nebulizer, a machine that helps you to breathe in medication through a mask.

A February 2017 study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a 30-fold increase in children burned by the capsules since 2012.

And a 2014 study found that between 2012 and 2013, more than 17,000 calls were made to poison control centers about children who had been exposed to the pods.

Flores urged other parents to avoid the laundry capsules if possible, and called for the pods to be redesigned.

'They shouldn't be bright, colorful and fun, they look like something appetizing, especially to kids,' she said.

'The pods are so concentrated that they cause terrible damage when ingested. There is absolutely no need to use them. They compromise safety. We got very lucky.'

Source: The Daily Mail

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