Dumb, dangerous things in your home

The Pediatric Insider

© 2015 Roy Benaroch, MD

Little kids are curious by nature. They like to get into things, and they like to put things in their mouths. Manufacturers of many dangerous things take all kids of steps to prevent that from happening. For instance, children’s liquid acetaminophen is packaged in bottles that are relatively small—even if a bottle of liquid is swallowed, it’s less likely to cause toxicity. And those Gummi-style vitamins never contain iron, because iron is the one “vitamin and mineral” that’s really, really toxic in overdoses. I’m still not so sure it’s a great idea to make multivitamins into Gummi candy, but at least the people who make them are trying to keep them safe.

A few products seem to have missed the boat on this whole “safety for children” thing.

First, here’s a pocket or purse sized container of ibuprofen from a prominent national brand (don’t try to guess which one—I’ve cleverly covered the label with my thumb.) The child-proof cap is a joke—you can’t really screw it back closed, so it’s really easy to open.

Ibuprofen tablets

Worse, the tablets themselves look pretty much exactly like candy M&Ms. They melt in your mouth, not in your hand:


And, worst of all, the little tablets are coated in sucrose. Lick ‘em, and they’re sweet and tasty. So: packaged so they’re easy to open, and designed so they look and taste like candy. Far be it from me to disparage a national brand, but one might come to the conclusion that these people hate toddlers and want to kill them. Of course, I wouldn’t say that on my blog, because I’m allergic to lawyers.

Next on the “Products that seem to have been designed for maximum toddler maiming potential” are laundry pods. These are those little prepackaged things that cleverly save us the trouble of measuring out laundry detergent with a scoop. (What are we, cavemen?) They’re colorful and cool and – guess what!?—toddlers like to put them in their mouths. Ingestion of these things is very dangerous. Worse, manufacturers don’t have to tell anyone what’s inside, making it difficult for doctors and poison centers to manage ingestions. They’re looking into adding bitter substances to laundry pods, making them less likely to be eaten. (I can see it now, pods flavored like brussels sprouts.) But still: if they look cool and are easy to break open or swallow, someone little is going to get hurt.


You can’t rely on product manufacturers to protect your kids. Use common sense. Dangerous things—like medicines, cleaning supplies, oven cleaners, pesticides, and laundry detergents should be kept way out of sight and unreachable by curious kids. Keep the phone # of the poison center (1-800-222-1222) handy, and call them immediately if there’s been an ingestion. And just say “no” to laundry pods and medicines that look and taste like candy.

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2 Comments on “Dumb, dangerous things in your home”

  1. wzrd1 Says:

    I guess I’m lucky, my ibuprofen is only coated with mannitol.
    More seriously though, one upside for ibuprofen is, it’s *really* hard to overdose on it and it isn’t chewable, which many, if not most children would spit out after sucking the sugar off of the tablet. More concerning would be not placing that bottle of medication well and truly out of the reach of children.

    Laundry pods are a major concern, to the point where the CDC has issued multiple warnings on the pods in MMWR. Personally, my wife and I don’t use them. Dumping detergent into a cup and adding it to the washer isn’t time consuming and we don’t use fabric softener.

    Truthfully, I’ve wondered for a half century about why “common sense” is called that, as it seems to be so decidedly uncommon.


  2. Eli Canfield Says:

    We were using the pods for a while; they’re a god-send for blind folks without small children. We switched when we read an article somewhere else before our now toddler was mobile.


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