DANVILLE - Approximately six children were treated for poisoning in the past two months at Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger after eating single-load detergent pods, a hospital spokesman says.

Two children were treated at the children's hospital in the past two weeks, and two more at Geisinger-Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Wilkes-Barre, Michael Ferlazzo, public relations specialist, said Tuesday.

They join a growing trend nationwide in which more than 3,000 children were treated for poisoning after eating the pods, Dr. Melanie Weller, assistant chief resident of pediatrics at Janet Weis Children's Hospital, said Tuesday.

Weller says parents must treat the pods as any other chemical cleaner - keep them out of reach of children, perhaps in a locked cabinet.

"A lot of parents probably think of laundry detergent as something that's not really a worry. They lock up kitchen cleaner and bathroom cleaner but don't think of detergent; it's laid on a washing machine or put in a clothes basket," Weller said. "If there's a child in the house, they see brightly colored packets in a brightly colored container. It looks intriguing to them so they go after that."

There are no records of any children being treated for eating the pods at either Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital or the Danville hospital's emergency room, Ferlazzo said.

Single-load pods were first introduced to consumers in 2010, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They've become popular for use in washing machines and have also been manufactured for use in dish washers.

CDC began tracking reports of poisoning by pods last year and said more than nearly 500 cases of detergent poisoning that occurred between May and June were due to ingestion or exposure to soap pods.

The vast majority of cases in which age was reported involved children 5 years old or younger, the report says, and almost all were accidental.

The pods are often brightly colored and potentially appealing to children who mistake them for candy or toys. They contain soap detergent and in some cases, bleach. A water-soluble membrane holds inside a concentrated detergent, sometimes both liquid and powder.

Biting into the pods could cause skin irritation if the gel touches the skin. It's recommended by Weller that any child who gets the detergent into their eyes seek an opthamologist.

Ingestion could cause chemical burning to the mouth and esophagus, and could also cause lung irritation, she said. Side effects include vomiting, trouble breathing and drowsiness or lethargy.

It would be a rarity but not altogether impossible that the result could be fatal, Weller said.

Treatment, she said, comes through "supportive care" - observing the patient, be sure they're breathing is normal and, if not, use oxygen, and provide fluids as needed. If esophageal burns are suspected, an endoscopy is performed to determine the severity and if surgery is necessary.

It hasn't come to that at Geisinger, Weller said, as those cases have been less severe.

There have been no cases of ingestion of soap-pods by children at Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Soap-pod makers such as Tide have attempted to make the packaging safer, she said, including introducing a double-lock container. Warnings to keep out of reach of children do appear on Tide products.

Other manufacturers of laundry detergent pods include Arm and Hammer, Fab, Purex, All and Ajax. Cascade, Palmolive, Finish and Method offer dish detergent pods, according to Times-Shamrock archives.