Laundry Detergent Capsule Exposure

From IAEM - Laundry Detergent Capsule Exposure Guideline.


Laundry Detergent capsules (e.g. Liquitabs) are household domestic products usually packaged as small, brightly coloured concentrated detergent sachets. The majority of laundry detergent capsules contain a combination of agents, of which include, an anionic detergent (20-30%), a non ionic detergent, propylene glycol (15 – 20%), and ethanol (2 – 5%) and a cationic surfactant. These agents are dissolved in water to form an alkaline solution.

Most patients are < 5 years old and present with ingestion, eye contact or skin contact symptoms.

Serious oesophageal ulceration may occur.


  • GI: Vomiting, nausea, dairrhoea and less comonly abdominal pain
  • Airway: Coughing, Bronchospasm, Pharyngitis, stridor
  • Chemical burn


  • Detailed Hx/Exam
  • Beware symptoms above
    • If epiglottic burn - call anaesthetics
    • Mouth burns indicate a risk of imminent airway compromise
    • If well but risk of airway burn/oedema:
      • CXR and PFA
      • Analgesia and supportive management
  • Surgical assessment ± early endoscopy/ CT
  • Give broad-spectrum antibiotics if proven perforation
  • IV H2 antagonists or PPIs may reduce corrosive injury
  • Activated charcoal is contraindicated
  • Gastric lavage is not recommended
  • Immediate lavage and ophthalmology referral if suspected (alkali) eye injury


Involve anaesthetics (airway) or surgical(GI) with findings above.

GCS of 15, no obvious burns/symptoms

  • Observe for 6 hours and monitor vitals
  • ECG to assess QRS and QT intervals
  • Repeat ECGs is patients are symptomatic

In patient with GCS of less than 15

  • FBC, U&E, Coag and VBG
  • 12 lead ECG
  • Complete primary and secondary assessment

Content by Dr Éanna Mc Suibhne, Dr Íomhar O' Sullivan 02/11/2018. Last review Dr ÍOS 31/08/22.