Calls to poison control spike as coronavirus leads more people to disinfect

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Poison Center Network is seeing an uptick in calls about cleaning products and disinfectants.

“Of course we can tie that all back into what’s going on right now in the world with the coronavirus and people just trying their best to stay healthy,” explains Melinda Crockom with the Commission on State Emergency Communications, which administers the poison control program. 

Data shared with KXAN investigator Arezow Doost shows across the state, bleach related calls went up 68% from March 1 to April 24, compared to this time last year. The network says disinfectants including Lysol spiked 145%, and calls about hand sanitizer increased 69%. 

Texas Poison Center Network says in the Central Texas area there’s been a 12% spike in calls in a two month period.

“They’re getting these creams or disinfectant on their hands and maybe getting a rash or … they maybe put their hands in their mouth, and that’s how they might ingest it, if it gets on their tongue,” Crockom says. “It’s going to cause … irritation because there’s chemicals in these products.”

Nearly 7 out of 10 calls about hand sanitizer involved children age 5 and younger, the data showed.

The Texas Poison Center Network recommends keeping cleaning products locked and using child-resistant locks on cabinets. 

“So that kids cannot get into them and they’re out of reach and if for some reason they do get into these products, then it’s really important that you call poison control,” Crockom says. 

Texas Poison Center Network also shared these safety tips to keep your family safe:

  • Follow the instructions on the label when you use and store household chemicals.
  • Don’t mix products. This can cause deadly gases or cause a fire.
  • Store products in their original containers.
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Child resistant does not mean child proof.
  • Wear gloves or goggles when you use these materials.
  • Take time to teach children about poisonous substances.

Poison specialists have also gotten a dozen calls about possible misuse of the drug chloroquine used to treat malaria. The drug has shown promise in treating COVID-19, but it’s not FDA-approved for that purpose.

Poison control specialists are available 24 hours a day and can be reached by calling the emergency hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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