Dishwasher tablets and liquitabs: what to do if swallowed

Dishwasher and liquitabs can be extremely dangerous if swallowed. Hospitals admitted nearly 1500 children last year following the accidental ingestion of liquitabs. Some of those admitted required ventilation in Intensive Care and a couple required re-constructive surgery.

These capsules look incredibly appealing to little ones. Please store them safely; well out of sight and reach in a locked cupboard. In fact, ROSPA are so concerned that they have been handing out safety kits and specific advice.

Reassure and Rinse

If you find a child has put a dishwasher tablet or some other corrosive substance in their mouth – keep as calm as you can.

Firstly, reassure them, then remove any visible substance and rinse away any visible substance on their face or hands. Furthermore, if you think they have eaten or swallowed a corrosive substance, immediately phone the emergency services.

If a child was to mistake a dishwasher or washing machine capsule or tablet for a sweet it could cause serious damage. This is because cleaning products are extremely alkaline and can burn the skin fast.

Swill with milk or water

If a child has put a dishwasher tablet in their mouth it is important to remove it and rinse the product away as quickly as you can. Protect yourself if possible, but attend to them fast. Moreover, if they have swallowed some of the product, ideally get them to swill milk or alternatively water around their mouth. Make them spit it out and then give them small sips of milk or water to dilute the product down their throat. DO NOT MAKE THEM SICK because this will cause them to burn again as the corrosive product comes back up.

Phone for an ambulance and keep giving them small sips of milk or water.

Look at the box that the substance has come from and read the advice in case of accidental ingestion.

Unable to breathe

If unconscious protect yourself when resuscitating

If they have swallowed some of the product, it is possible that it will have burnt both their oesophagus and their airway. Consequently, their airway can swell and become obstructed until they are unable to breathe. If this happens and they go unconscious and stop breathing, you will need to resuscitate them by giving them breaths followed by chest compressions. It is important that you protect yourself when giving the breaths – this can be done with a pocket mask or plastic bag with a hole in it – cover the mouth with the bag and breath through the hole in the bag into the nose – thereby protecting yourself and ensuring that you are not burnt as well. Besides this, remember to keep the paramedics updated.

When the ambulance takes you to hospital, take the box of tablets and the remains of any tablet they have swallowed as this will help the doctors to treat them in the best way possible.

Useful Poisoning Advice for Parents

Some common household chemicals are incredibly toxic to children and can cause illnesses including seizures, vomiting, blurred vision, acute anaphylaxis and can be fatal.

  • Keep all potentially harmful substances out of reach of small children and ideally in a locked cupboard. This includes dishwasher tablets, medicines, alcohol, cosmetics, DIY supplies, cleaning and gardening products and potentially poisonous plants.
  • Never decant medication or any other products into different containers. Always use the original containers, clearly labelled, ideally with childproof lids.
  • Keep batteries out of reach of small children and ensure that batteries in toys and gadgets are firmly secured. Batteries can burn a child’s intestine, causing irreparable damage.
  • Fit carbon monoxide alarms and have appliances and alarms regularly checked.
  • Tidy up straight after a party as little ones are likely to be the first up and could easily finish the dregs of drinks as well as helping themselves to anything else before you’re even awake.
  • Also be careful of other people’s handbags left accessible to children as they could have numerous potentially lethal hazards inside.
  • Choose cleaning products containing Bitrex which is bitter to discourage children from drinking the substances. Children can easily mistake a dishwasher or washing machine capsule/tablet for a sweet. Keep them out of sight and don’t be tempted to leave them in the door of the machine. Cleaning products are strong alkali and burn.
  • Don’t let children eat any plants in the house, garden or countryside.
  • Lastly, store medication carefully, be particularly careful with birth control pills and analgesics that are commonly kept on the bedside cabinet.
Emma Hammett: Emma Hammett is an experienced nurse and first aid trainer, she has worked in many areas including A&E, Children’s Ward, Burns Unit and Acute medical and surgical wards before becoming hospital manager of Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals. In 2007, she founded First Aid for Life and is shortly going to publish her second book, Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls – The ultimate guide to the prevention and treatment of childhood accidents. Emma is also the founder of First Aid for Pets offering first aid training courses for your pets https://firstaidforpets.net/

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