Doctors at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children have warned the medical community and parents about the danger posed to small children by detergent liquitabs.

In a letter to the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Lyndsay Fraser, David Wynne, W Andrew Clement, Mark Davidson and Haytham Kubba cited recent instances of infants being admitted for chemical burns to the throat or eyes caused by biting or squeezing the capsules.

“We wish to highlight a cluster of cases we have experienced over the past 18 months of laryngopharyngeal injury following the accidental ingestion of liquid detergent capsules (commonly known as liquitabs),” stated the letter. “Five children, all under the age of two, were admitted as emergencies with stridor and drooling after biting into a liquid detergent capsule.”

When swallowed, the alkaline chemicals in liquitabs burn the throat and induce swelling in the airways. Many of the cases seen at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children have required the insertion of a breathing tube. Some children have needed surgery, while others have been kept on a ventilator for up to a fortnight.

The bright colours and squeezable format of liquitabs is thought to make them particularly appealing to infants. “Dishwasher and washing machine liquitabs are now a common finding in most homes but unfortunately seem very attractive to young children,” wrote the doctors.