Kentuckians are poisoning themselves as they fight COVID-19

Poisonings related to cleaners and disinfectants are surging as local families work to protect themselves against COVID-19.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poison control centers nationwide received more than 45,000 calls tied to cleaners and disinfectants during the last quarter, about a 20% increase. While the increase affected all age groups, children ages 5 and under were impacted the most. Complaints included shortness of breath, dizziness and vomiting.

Kentucky has a similar trend. Last month, the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital saw a 30% increase in overall exposure calls related to disinfecting agents, including a 56% increase in poisonings from household cleaners and a 30% increase in poisonings from hand sanitizers.

“The data shows many of the exposures are from consuming or inhaling these products,” said Maria Chapman, poison prevention coordinator with the Kentucky Poison Control Center, which also operates the Kentucky COVID-19 Hotline. “We’ve had reports of young kids drinking hand sanitizer, as well as adults breathing in toxic fumes as they mix together combinations of cleaners.”

According to Maria, parents and caregivers can limit exposure to these poisons by:

  • Storing all household products out of a child’s sight and reach. Young kids often are at eye level with items under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  • Installing child safety locks on cabinets containing poisonous items.
  • Always following all instructions and warnings and wearing eye protection.
  • Not mixing chemicals.
  • Not leaving poisonous products unattended while in use.
  • Never putting a potentially poisonous product in something other than its original container where it could be mistaken for something else.

“It’s important to protect against COVID-19,” Maria said. “But also make sure in your race to prevent the virus, you’re not also putting yourself and your family in another dangerous situation.”

The Kentucky Poison Control Center is staffed with toxicology-certified health care professionals 24 hours a day. They can determine if a child or adult can be treated at home — which often is the case — or if they need to go to an emergency room. All calls and consultations are free and confidential.

The poison hotline is (800) 222-1222.


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