Almost all of the cases so far have been reported since March, when several companies began to market the packets. A handful of children have been hospitalized for several days. Texas reported 71 instances of exposure this year, all but one in March or later. Missouri reported 25 cases related to the packets, and Illinois reported 26.
Some children might be confusing the tubs of colorfully swirled detergent packets for bowls of candy, said Bruce D. Anderson, director of operations at the Maryland Poison Center. Maryland has reported 15 cases this year. "Kids are very bright and will find a way to get to something that they want to get to," he said.
Michael Buehler of the Carolinas Poison Center said Tide's tougher lid could make a difference. "In a nutshell, yes, it would be good, but I don't know enough," Buehler said. "It's too early to tell." Spokesmen for other detergent-makers did not immediately say whether they also planned changes.
Sun Products Corp., which makes "mighty pacs" sold under the All brand name, is evaluating its packaging, spokeswoman Kathryn Corbally said.
Henkel Consumer Goods, which distributes Purex Ultrapacks, and Church & Dwight, which makes OxiClean and Arm & Hammer packs, declined to say if any changes were planned.
The packets appear to cause more severe symptoms than typical detergent, possibly because a single packet has a full cup's worth of detergent or because the packets might activate more quickly or differently.
In suburban Philadelphia, a 17-month-old boy climbed onto a dresser and popped a detergent package in his mouth. The boy vomited, became drowsy and started coughing, said Dr. Fred Henretig of the Poison Control Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The boy was put on a ventilator for a day and hospitalized for a week.