UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Laundry detergent pods exposure - the hidden danger.

Keywords: Pediatric exposure, laundry detergent pods (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/23/2016 by Hong Kim, MD
Click here to contact Hong Kim, MD

Laundry detergent pods were introduced in 2012 to make washing clothes more "convenient." Since then, pediatric exposures to laundry detergent pods have increased as the use of these detergent pods have become more common in homes. Like other household chemical exposure, small, colorful candy like appearances of laundry detergent pods can attract the attention of < 3 years old children resulting in unintentional exposure due to curiosity or taste.

Most frequent clinical effects (2013 - 2014 national poison center data) from exposure to detergents in general (laundry detergent pods and nonpods & dishwasher detergent):

  • GI: nausea & vomiting: 29.1%
  • Cough/choking: 8.3%
  • Ocular irritation/pain: 5.6%
  • Red eye/conjunctivitis: 3.4%
  • Drowsiness/lethargy: 2.8%

Laundry detergent pod vs. nonpods:

  • Higher referral to health care facility: 17.4% vs. 4.7%
  • Higher odds of experiencing > 1 clinical effects (OR: 3.9; 95% CI: 3.7 4.1)
  • Higher odds of hospital admission (OR: 4.8; 95% CI: 4.0 5.8)
  • Higher odd of intubation (OR: 6.9; 95% CI: 3.5 13.6)

Laundry detergent pods (only) also resulted in following:

  • Coma: 17 cases
  • Respiratory arrest: 6 cases
  • Pulmonary edema: 4 cases
  • Cardiac arrest: 2 cases

Cases of caustic exposure-like injuries have also been reported (corneal abrasion and esophageal injury)

Bottom line:

Pediatric laundry detergent (nonpods) exposures usually have self-limited symptoms. However, laundry detergent pod exposure can cause more serious clinical effects that may require hospitalization.


  1. Smith E, Liebelt E, Nogueira J. Laundry detergent pod ingestions: is there a need for endoscopy? J Med Toxicol. 2014 Sep;10(3):286-91. doi: 10.1007/s13181-014-0414-3.
  2. Valdez AL, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Chounthirath T, Xiang H, Smith GA. Pediatric exposure to laundry detergent pods. Pediatrics. 2014 Dec;134(6):1127-35. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0057. Epub 2014 Nov 10.
  3. Whitney RE1, Baum CR, Aronson PL. Diffuse corneal abrasion after ocular exposure to laundry detergent pod. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2015 Feb;31(2):127-8. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000244.