Doctors in Glasgow have treated five children, aged under two years old, who had bitten into or squeezed the brightly coloured 'liquitabs' – used in washing machines and dishwashers.
They suffered chemical burns to their eyes or throats. When liquid was swallowed, a tube had to be inserted to aid breathing until swelling in the airways was treated.
One youngster, Orla Hutchison, swallowed the contents of a liquitab when she was seven months old. She was rushed into hospital and spent 10 days in intensive care.
Her mum, Shannon, said: "Orla was at my sister's house playing with my two-year-old nephew who managed to get hold of one of these liquitabs.
"He thought it was a sweetie because it was bright and like a jelly so he gave it to Orla who bit into it.
"Immediately we realised there was a problem as she was going in and out of consciousness so phoned an ambulance right away. It was terrifying. I'm just so lucky to still have my little girl."
Since the incident, Shannon said she had been much more careful about where all her family are keeping liquitabs.
To kids they do look like bright sweeties and they are not in a sealed box, kids can get into them so easily and I had no idea what could happen until I saw what happened to Orla.
"When we got to hospital the doctors told me they see this two or three a year. Now I make sure that all the liquitabs are locked away and I tell everyone to do the same.
"The boxes they come in really should be child proof and I hope manufacturers do something about this as I wouldn't want this to happen to any other little girl or boy."
Doctors from The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow have now launched a campaign to make parents aware of the dangers.
Dr Lyndsay Fraser, from the hospital's ear nose and throat unit, said: "We have known for some time about the risk of eye injuries from kids squeezing these liquitabs until they burst.
"What we have seen more recently is that children are biting into the tablets, presumably because they think they are sweets as they have the same soft texture and bright colouring.
"The alkaline chemicals in the liquitab cause an immediate chemical burn, causing breathing problems as the airway starts to swell rapidly.
"Getting them to hospital straight away is imperative. In most of the cases seen so far we have had to insert a breathing tube to protect the child's airway from the swelling and help them breathe."
Dr Fraser said that if these children had not reached the hospital on time, their airway 'could have closed over completely with potentially fatal consequences'.
Dr Fraser added: "Most liquitab brands do not come packaged in child proof containers so it is easy to access to them especially if they are left within reach and sight of young children or toddlers.
"Most parents are not aware of the dangers of these common household items, commonly storing them in unlocked cupboards within potential reach of their child.
"It is important parents realise that these liquid capsules are dangerous chemicals and they should be kept locked away so children can't reach them."
More:Advice And Health
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