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Child has re-constructive surgery to voice box and windpipe after being poisoned by gel laundry capsule

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 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is worried about a continuing rise in the number of children being harmed after biting/eating the brightly coloured gel laundry capsules.

Doctors in Glasgow first highlighted the dangers of the gel laundry capsules last year after a spate of admissions and the gel capsules have been causing emergency admissions since.

Free cupboard-catches have been given to families in the Glasgow area in an effort to curb the poisonings.

Consultant Haytham Kubba has stated that the problem had not gone away; a young 15 month girl, called Eva Turner recently bit into a liquitab. Her mother explained that Eva did not swallow a lot and was sick straight away. Eva was kept in overnight for observation and was fine; however, it is scary to think of what could have happened if she had swallowed too much.

Eva’s mother explained that the capsules were on a shelf in a utility room and the box they were in had a click-lid on it which she did not think Eva would be able to open, but she did.

The paediatrician, who works at Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill, said: "Unfortunately we have had another three cases through intensive care this year and we have seen a lot more cases since we first raised the alarm a year ago."

A recent survey by the UK's National Poisons Information Service revealed there had been 1,486 cases involving the capsules between May 2009 and July 2012. The vast majority involving children under the age of five.

Health visitors from Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board will now hand out 16,000 cupboard catches in an attempt to prevent any more injuries.

Community safety development officer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Carlene McAvoy, said: "For us the most important part of the campaign is actually the leaflet which is being handed out.”

After hearing the recent issues with the liquitabs, the manufacturers of gel capsules have now agreed to change their packaging, however, it will take some time for all brands to comply. It is believed that these measures will reduce incidents, but should not rule out the vital role that parents have to play when using the products as directed. By the end of 2013, the gel capsules will be packaged in opaque boxes with child resistant openers and prominent warnings, in a voluntary scheme proposed by the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association (UKCPI).

Philip Malpass, the director general of the UKCPI said: "In addition, manufacturers are working with the authorities to monitor any further incidents and are carrying out regional public awareness campaigns that will be rolled out across the UK.”

Mr Kubba said he is "heartened" by the changes adopted by the industry but also stressed that the most important thing is for parents to lock gel capsules away. "The reality is that the capsules are very concentrated and they are surprisingly dangerous, "I was surprised at how dangerous they can be. We've had nine children though our intensive care in the last few years, which is nine seriously injured children who need to be on a ventilator to help them breathe. One of those children needed reconstructive surgery to their voicebox and windpipe."

Earlier this summer the charity Children in Wales produced posters urging parents to "lock up your liquitabs" because of an increasing number of poisonings there.

By Tara Lever, personal injury department