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Not For Play Keep Them Away

September 12, 2013 10:18 AM

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In a bid to tackle the increasing number of children being harmed by liquitabs, used in washing machines and dish washers, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is giving away 16,000 cupboard catches to encourage safe storage of liquitabs and household cleaning products.

During just one year, (2010/2011) the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill A & E treated 18 children as a result of a liquitab ingestion. The number of attendances is on the increase and the department now see, on average, two cases per month.

To try and combat this rise, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has teamed up with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) on the ‘Not for play...keep them away’ initiative. This will involve cupboard catches being distributed to all households in Greater Glasgow and Clyde with a baby at 12 to 16 weeks of age. Parents will be encouraged to use the catches to keep all household cleaning products securely stored away from children.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People, said: “As every parent knows, children love to explore. It is a constant challenge managing all of the safety risks in the family home, including access to household chemicals.

“Fitting a cupboard catch is a simple but very effective measure that can help keep inquisitive children safe. The Scottish Government is proud to support NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s work to increase child safety in the home.”

The alkaline chemicals in the liquitabs can cause an immediate chemical burn, causing breathing problems as the airway starts to swell rapidly. Getting children affected to hospital as quickly as possible is imperative because if the airway was to close over completely, this would have potentially fatal consequences.

Consultant Haytham Kubba from Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children explained the reasoning behind ‘Not for play...keep them away’.

Mr Kubba said: “On average we are seeing two cases a month coming into A&E where children have ingested liquitabs. Most parents are unaware of the dangers of liquitabs but to small children, the bright colourful gel-like cubes are definitely of interest and they can be very dangerous.

“The injuries from these products can be life threatening, causing considerable distress to both the child and their family. Treatment often involves intubation (inserting a tube to help the child breathe), surgery as well as a lengthy stay in hospital. Then there’s follow up appointments and in some cases further surgery.

“Our health visiting teams will be able to get some 16,000 cupboard catches and important information into all homes in Greater Glasgow and Clyde with a new baby. Our plan is over the next year all families with 12 to 16 week-old babies will receive a cupboard catch that they can easily fit to the cupboard where they keep household items such as liquitabs. Hopefully this will raise awareness and save any more children or parents going through the trauma of being rushed to hospital and possibly having quite major treatment.”

Juliet Turner, from Glasgow, knows only too well the dangers of liquitabs after Juliet’s daughter Eva (15 months) managed to get into a box.

Juliet said: “Even although the liquitabs were in a box which had a click-lid, Eva still managed to get into it. She bit into the liquitab but was sick straight away. I didn’t want to take any chances as I had heard about how toxic liquitabs could be so I took Eva straight to hospital where she was kept in intensive care overnight.

“It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life so I think these cupboards catches are a great idea. These look easy to fix on cupboards and anything that will help keep children safe is worth it.”

Lesley Nish, NHSGCC Health Improvement Senior, said: “We have worked with parents and our partners to identify the best way to raise awareness of the dangers associated with liquitabs and other household cleaning products. Parents have suggested that the information needs to coincide with the child’s development and the practical and easy solution is a cupboard catch. We are asking families to attach the cupboard catch to the cupboard where they store liquitabs and other cleaning products and to keep these products away from children.”

The cupboard catch scheme, ‘Not for play... keep them away’, is also backed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) which has also expressed concern at the attractiveness of some of these liquitabs which young children can mistake for jelly-like sweets.

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager for RoSPA Scotland, said: “This initiative shows that we all have a role to play in ensuring the safety of children, particularly in the home, where some of the most serious accidents happen.

“RoSPA has been made aware of cases involving young children who have been injured after ingesting liquitab detergents after mistaking them for sweets. It is hoped that this campaign, with the help of the free cupboard catches, will raise awareness among as many people as possible of the need to store chemical items, such as laundry detergents, in a secure cupboard, out of the reach of children.”


Notes to Editors
The cupboard catches will be given to all households with a baby at 12-16 weeks by Health Visiting teams in NHSGGC.

The catches are accompanied by a leaflet explaining how the catch works and how it should be fitted.

Photos of Juliet Turner and Eva are available, please contact the press office.

For an interview opportunity please contact the press office.

For more information contact the press office, tel: 0141 201 4429 or email: [email protected]  

Pic:  15 month old Eva Turner who spent time in intensive care at the RHSC after biting a liquitab.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021