Coronavirus: Don’t Let Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home Harm You 


By Kevin Scanlan 
Certified Poison Information Educator 
Illinois Poison Center 

The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that provides free poison information and education to all the residents of Illinois via a 24/7/365 hotline (1-800-222-1222staffed by physicians, pharmacists and other specially trained healthcare professionals. The IPC is the oldest Poison Center in the United States.  

During 2019, the IPC responded to almost 80,000 calls from the general public as well as healthcare professionals.  90% of the calls are handled without a further referral to a healthcare facility. 40% of the calls involve a child under the age of 5. 

Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, over the past several weeks, the IPC has seen a 49% increase in potentially harmful exposures to cleaning products calls as compared to last year.  The IPC estimates that they will handle close to 8,000 calls related to cleaning products over the next 12 months. 

Types of cases already handled by the IPC: 

People using non-traditional chemicals to wash their hands (bleach, hydrogen peroxide, wipes, etc.) resulting in rashesirritation and cracked skin. 

People using chemicals (bleach, wipes, cleaning powders, etc.) to wash their groceries, including produce, and exhibiting toxicity upon ingestion. 

People mixing cleaning chemicals together and inadvertently producing toxic gas. 

Children being exposed to cleaning products and/or chemicals that are  left open and/or unattended. 

Here are some tips: 

Always read the product label first and use the product according to label instructions. 

Keep all cleaning products in their original containers with original labels. 

Store cleaning products out of sight, in locked cabinets. 

Keep all household cleaning products and other potentially harmful products separated from food products. 

Never leave a cleaning product open and unattended. 

When using cleaning products, work in a well-ventilated area. 

Dispose of cleaning products according to the instructions on the label or at a chemical waste drop-off site. 

In case of a poisoning exposure, follow the first-aid steps below, then call the IPC hotline, 1-800-222-1222: 

Swallowed: Give a few sips of water to drink.  If the person is unconscious, call 911 or take them to the nearest hospital. 

Skin: Remove contaminated clothing and wash skin gently with soap and cool water. 

Eyes: Rinse eyes with lukewarm water for 15 minutes 

Fumes: Remove person to fresh air, taking care not to become exposed yourself.  If the person is not breathing, call 911 and start, if comfortable doing so, artificial respiration and continue until medical help arrives. 



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