Kentucky Poison Control Center sees increase in calls tied to cleaners and disinfectants

Updated: Apr. 25, 2020 at 12:05 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Officials say people are getting poisoned by household disinfectants as they try to fight COVID-19.

In March, the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital saw a 30 percent increase in overall exposure calls related to disinfectants. That spike includes a 56 percent increase in poisonings from household cleaners and a 30 percent increase in poisonings from hand sanitizers.

“So we’re seeing a lot more cases of the mop bucket was left for a second and somebody had to see what it tasted like,” poison prevention coordinator Maria Chapman said.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poison control centers nationwide received more than 45,000 calls tied to cleaners and disinfectants during the last quarter, about a 20 percent increase.

While the increase affected all age groups, children ages 5 and under were impacted the most. 80 percent of calls made to the Kentucky Poison Control Center were for pediatric cases.

To keep cleaning products away from kids, Chapman recommends storing all products out of site and out of reach. She also encourages parents to never leave products unattended while in use.

“So when they [disinfectants] are down where kids can get them, it’s something new and fascinating and unfortunately, kids like to explore the world by tasting and touching things,” Chapman said. “Some of these cleaners, they can get a little mouthful and they might be just fine or it might be really dangerous.”

According to Kentucky Poison Control Center Director Dr. Ashley Webb, overexposure to cleaning products can also come from inhalation.

“If you’re mixing agents that you shouldn’t you can create fumes and we get some inhalations,” Webb said.

Chapman said parents can further limit exposure to poisons by not mixing chemicals and never putting a product in something other than it’s original container. She also recommends following all use instructions, wearing eye protection and installing child safety locks on cabinets containing potentially poisonous items.

Those with any questions are encouraged to call poison control at (800) 222-1222 as a first step.

“We can help to triage a case and help determine if they need to see a physician or we can help to manage this at home,” Webb said.

Per a media release, the Kentucky Poison Control Center will receive $66,594 in CARES Act funds to improve its capacity to respond to increasing calls during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kentucky Poison Control Center also receives calls through a separate hotline for questions regarding COVID-19. According to Webb, the COVID hotline receives anywhere for 600 to 900 calls a day.

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