Risk of death and severe harm from ingestion of superabsorbent polymer gel granules

A warning alert has been issued around the risk of death and severe harm from ingestion of superabsorbent polymer gel granules.

Patient Safety Alerts are shared rapidly with healthcare providers via the Central Alerting System (CAS).

About this alert

Superabsorbent polymer gel granules are widely used in health and social care, typically as small sachets placed in urine and vomit bowls. On contact with liquid, the sachet opens and the granules almost instantaneously absorb, expand and solidify the liquid. This can protect patients’ bedding and clothing and reduce the risk of slips.

If the gel granules are put in the mouth they expand on contact with saliva risking airway obstruction. This has happened where patients have mistaken the sachets for sweets, or sugar or salt packets, but some incident reports also describe attempts of deliberate self-harm.

 Healthcare providers are asked to review their overall approach to using these products.

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