A mum has issued a warning to other parents after her baby spent three days on life support after he ingested a laundry pod he mistook for sweets.
We often see on adverts the warnings to keep laundry pods out of reach of babies and children, but one mum is urging others to heed the advice after seeing her son fighting for his life after swallowing the toxic contents of a washing pod.
Katelyn Cunha Flores, 30, was horrified when she discovered her son Cotter Cunha, then one, had swallowed the contents of a detergent pod while she was doing the washing in July 2017.
The capsule, filled with concentrated detergent, burned Cotter’s oesophagus and stomach lining and caused his respiratory system to swell.
Katelyn, of Rhode Island, in the US, rushed Cotter, then two, to hospital where his condition began to rapidly deteriorate and he struggled to breathe.
The tot’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.
Mum-of-four Katelyn, a sales representative, feared her young son would die in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit as doctors struggled to stabilise his oxygen levels.
Katelyn explained that she’d been packing and doing some washing before going away for the weekend while Cotter was playing with his toys on the floor nearby.
When she had her back turned she heard Cotter crying and on checking noticed his hands were covered in something.
“That’s when I noticed the plastic of the pod hanging out of his mouth,” she explains.
“I panicked and I picked him up and washed out his mouth in the bathroom. I rushed him straight to the hospital.
At the hospital doctors immediately realised the seriousness of the situation and rushed him in for emergency surgery. He was also given an endoscopy which revealed that parts of his oesophagus were burned and the top of his stomach lining.
“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.
Katelyn explained that his airway was so compromised that night that he started turning purple.
“I didn’t think he would make it through. It was the most awful night of my life,” she added.
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Luckily, doctors stabilised 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 eventually released from hospital on July 6 and placed on a strict diet of low-acid, pureed foods for two weeks.
While the injuries to Cotter’s oesophagus and stomach have healed, the toddler continues to have issues with his breathing, almost two years after the accident.
“Luckily he doesn’t have any issues with his stomach now, but he does have trouble breathing when he is sick or has a cough,” Katelyn explained.
“After this happened, they discovered Cotter had a birth defect, meaning that his airway was already a different shape.
“When he gets sick now or coughs, it is a really harsh cough. It sounds like he has croup.
“He has a nebuliser too.”
Katelyn now wants to warn other parents about the dangers of the laundry capsules.
“The convenience of laundry pods does not outweigh the damage they can cause,” she says.
“They shouldn’t be bright, colourful and fun, they look like something appetising, especially to kids.
“The pods are so concentrated that they cause terrible damage when ingested.
“The doctors told us that if he had swallowed a sip of normal laundry detergent it wouldn’t have been as bad,” she added.
“There is absolutely no need to use them. They compromise safety. We got very lucky.”
Data released by the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 12,299 incidents related to laundry pods in 2017.
More than 80 per cent of those incidents involved children aged five or younger biting into pods.
Previous research revealed that approximately 30 children each day are poisoned due to eating liquid laundry detergent packets.
The news comes after previous warnings revealed the risks associated with the Tide Pod challenge, which saw people uploading videos of them eating laundry pods to YouTube.
In the first two weeks of January 2018, the US saw 39 reported cases of teenagers eating laundry detergent.
A public awareness campaign followed after an increase in reports of poisoning after the challenge went viral.
To donate to Cotter’s campaign visit https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-baby-cotter