Be cautious when you clean -- Calls to poison control rise amid COVID-19 outbreak

Don’t mix chemicals or products

Poison control centers are reporting an increase in calls related to cleaning products as people are trying to reduce their risk from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Most people are cleaning far more than they usually clean and as cleaning supplies have run low many people are using products that they may not have used before. This can pose a risk if people aren’t careful.

Poison control centers received more than 45,000 calls between January and March. That’s a 20 percent increase compared to the same time period last year. Researchers also found the daily number of calls increased sharply at the beginning of March.

Bleach, non-alcohol disinfectants and hand sanitizers were most often to blame. The majority of calls involved children under the age of five.

In one case a woman trying to disinfect her groceries mixed bleach, vinegar and hot water in her sink. The resulting fumes caused her to have difficulty breathing and sent her to the hospital.

In another case, a preschooler drank hand sanitizer left on a kitchen table and developed a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit for driving.

The Centers for Disease Control said to reduce your risk from cleaning products and sanitizers you should follow the directions on the label. Do not mix chemicals or products. You can unintentionally create a toxic mix. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia releases a toxic gas related to chlorine.

You should also wear protective gear, like gloves and use the products in a well-ventilated area. Always store chemicals out of the reach of children.

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.