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Airdrie mom warns others of dangers of laundry pods if ingested

By: Christina Waldner

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 06:00 am

Declan Bilham cuddles with his father, Jonathan, as he recovers at the Alberta Children's Hospital after injesting part of a laundry pod.
Declan Bilham cuddles with his father, Jonathan, as he recovers at the Alberta Children's Hospital after injesting part of a laundry pod.
Lindsay Bilham/For Rocky View Publishing

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Lindsay Bilham said it’s a morning she won’t soon forget. The 29-year-old Airdrie mother was doing the laundry with her 17-month-old son nearby, Declan, at 7:30 a.m. on July 22 when it all went terribly wrong.

According to Bilham, her son decided the laundry pod his mother was using looked like a tasty treat and took a bite.

“It just exploded,” said Bilham. “At first I didn’t think he’d swallowed any of it but then he started throwing up.”

Bilham said she immediately called PADIS, the Poison & Drug Information Service operated by Alberta Health Services (AHS). The information specialist was not concerned, according to Bilham, but said she’d call back in a few minutes to check up on Declan.

Health Canada issued a statement about the laundry pods in July of 2012, warning parents and caregivers about the dangers of the laundry and dishwasher pods. The warning stated the pods can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting or breathing difficulty.

When Bilham received the follow-up call from PADIS at 8:10 a.m., she told the information specialist that Declan seemed really sleepy. She was told to call 911 immediately and to keep the child awake.

Airdrie EMS arrived within a few minutes and assessed the child, but told Bilham it didn’t appear too serious. They decided to transport him to the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) in Calgary as a precaution.

“When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital, his neck started getting all droopy and his breathing became very ragged,” said Bilham.

According to Bilham, Declan was rushed to one of the big emergency rooms at the ACH where she counted 18 doctors and nurses in the room at one point.

“By 10 a.m., he was in the operating room to get a tube put in his throat,” said Bilham. “It was done as a precaution because the chemicals in the pod can cause swelling. I was told he had about 50 per cent swelling (in his throat.)”

Declan was kept under sedation for two days. The tube was removed on the morning of July 24 and he was released on July 25 at 2 p.m. Bilham said a follow-up check-up on July 28 showed he was healing up nicely and the doctor was pleased with the sound of his breathing and his lungs.

Bilham said she decided to share her story so other parents don’t have to go through what she and her husband, Jonathan, 31, had to go through.

“I felt like the worst mother in the world,” said Bilham. “Everyone told me I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and I’m not the first mom nor will I be the last who has had this issue happen.”

“I started looking at them (the pods) after,” said Bilham. They’re squishy, they’re colourful, they’re fun to play with, they look very similar to candy; I can totally understand why a 17 month old would think ‘hey, let’s put this in my mouth.’”

Stuart Brideaux, EMS public education officer with AHS, was unable to provide information about the number of calls they respond to each year that involve a child ingesting a laundry pod. However, Brideaux said the majority of the time EMS is called out because of a suspected poisoning involving a child, the item ingested is some form of medication, either prescription or over-the-counter.

Brideaux said EMS tries to promote the prevention of accidental poisonings.

“Storing (poisonous substances or medication) out of reach is not necessarily the be all and end all, it’s also storing them in a fashion that they’re not accessible at all,” he said. “Simply keeping them in a place that is out of the sight line of a child so they don’t even know they’re there is very helpful.”

Bilham said she and her husband have changed how they store their laundry pods.

“Definitely. The first thing my husband did when we got home was build a shelf in our closet where we have our laundry,” she said.

Brideaux suggests parents keep the PADIS number close at hand. In Alberta, that number is 1-800-332-1414.

“In the event that you think it’s an emergency, call 911 first,” he said. “Any combination of things may occur. 911 may liaise with PADIS while we’re en route. Very commonly EMS on scene may call PADIS to get any background on any poison or toxin.”

“We advise anyone in care of a child to keep a sample of the product that may have been ingested or is known to have been ingested so we can show very specifically at the hospital what it is the child has inadvertently eaten,” he said. “Even if it’s just an empty box.”

For more information about the dangers of laundry and cleaning pods, visit the Health Canada website at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca

More information on what to do in the case of an accidental poisoning, visit the PADIS website at www.albertahealthservices.ca/5423.asp


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