4 Strange Things That Land People in the Emergency Room

From laundry detergent to blueberry pie, these stranger-than-fiction hazards will surprise you.

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From laundry detergent to blueberry pie, these stranger-than-fiction hazards will surprise you:

Dangerous detergent

If you’ve got young kids at home, you may want to think twice about buying laundry detergent pods. Children often mistake the brightly colored squishy packets for toys or candy, with life threatening results.

A report recently published in Pediatrics found that U.S. poison control centers received more than 17,000 calls in 2012 and 2013 about children who'd been exposed to laundry detergent pods—that's about one call per hour. More than 700 children were seriously sickened, researchers found. And a new study found that over nine months in 2012, 31 kids were seen in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ER after being exposed to burst detergent pods, 10 of them for eye injuries and 21 due to ingestion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these pods be kept out of reach and out of sight of children, so store them in a safe hard-to-find place with a child-proof lock.

Barbecue bellyaches

When you picture getting sick after a weekend BBQ, you probably think the likeliest culprit is food poisoning. But folks are heading to the ER with abdominal upset from a very different source: the wire bristle brushes used to clean barbecue grills. The small, thin bristles can stick to the grill and become embedded in that burger you chow down, causing serious damage to your intestines.

A Rhode Island hospital system with two ERs identified 6 cases from July 2009 to November 2010 and another 6 between March 2011 and June 2012. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is reviewing brush-related injury data to see if they can pinpoint a specific brand or type of brush; in the meantime the CDC recommends giving your grill a thorough once over before the BBQ to make sure it’s truly bristle free.

Electrifying endurance events

Obstacle course races like Tough Mudder are meant to be, well, tough. With challenges like "Arctic Enema" (plunge into icy water, swim under a wooden plank, and pull yourself out) and "Electroshock Therapy" (run through a field of live wires while dodging hay bales and sinkholes), it's no surprise that people can get hurt. But be prepared to be shocked at the extent of the possible injuries.

When researchers reviewed 38 cases at a local ER after a Pennsylvania Tough Mudder race, they found several patients had sustained severe injuries, including multiple electric shocks. One patient suffered 13 through the last obstacle alone and was left with electrical burns and heart inflammation; another received multiple shocks to the head and was admitted to the hospital after experiencing "fainting and altered mental status." A third developed seizures and couldn't move the entire right side of his body; he was admitted to intensive care and six months later still had problems moving his right leg.

Penicillin on produce

An article in the September 2014 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recounted the case of a 10-year-old girl who was admitted to the ER after an anaphylactic reaction from eating blueberry pie. Docs were mystified until they tested a sample: The blueberries had traces of streptomycin, a type of penicillin the girl was allergic to. (These types of antibiotics are sometimes used as pesticides, the authors say.) While this is the first published report of this kind of reaction, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends that anyone at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction always carry epinephrine (an EpiPen auto-injector).

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