Keeping your hands and household surfaces clean helps protect you from COVID-19 and other illnesses. But the products and your cleaning habits have a downside – they may also cause accidental poisonings.
Although anyone can be poisoned by cleaning products, young children and pets are particularly at risk.
The Dangers of Cleaning
Cleaning hands and surfaces reduces exposure to germs. But here’s why you need to be careful.
Your Cleaning Habits Can Help or Harm Your Health
Coronavirus droplets travel through the air when an infected person breathes, talks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes. While the droplets can land on surfaces, recent research suggests that contaminated surfaces aren't a significant source of COVID-19 transmission.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it's still possible to catch COVID and other viruses from surfaces. Frequent cleaning is a simple way to remove the virus. Cleaning railings, doorknobs, phones, countertops, and other frequently touched surfaces can help lower the risk.
Unfortunately, the ingredients that kill the virus may also make someone sick if they accidentally swallow, breathe or lick the cleaner.
Early in the pandemic, there was a sharp increase in accidental poisonings resulting from cleaning products. According to a CDC report, calls to U.S. poison control centers related to cleaning supplies and disinfectants increased by 20% in January through March 2020 compared to the previous year. The largest increase in calls involved poisonings in children younger than 5.
7 Ways to Use Cleaning Products Safely
Keeping your home and hands clean, especially during a global pandemic, is important. But if you have young children or pets at home, it’s also important to be aware of the dangers these cleaning habits may pose.
The Blue Ridge Poison Center provides free treatment advice. Call them 24/7 at 800.222.1222.
These tips help reduce the risk of accidental poisoning.
Find a Safe Storage Location
Keep sprays, liquids, wipes, and hand sanitizers on high shelves or other places where children and pets can’t reach them. Place childproof latches on cabinets to protect your kids from dangerous cleaning products.
Throw Away Used Products Immediately
Place used cleaning wipes, empty bottles, and paper towels saturated with cleaners in a trash can with a secure lid as soon as you finish using them.
Don’t Mix Cleaners
Combining two or more types of cleaning products can create dangerous fumes that can cause breathing difficulties, fainting, or even death. Even natural cleaning products can cause issues when mixed with others.
Limit Use of Harsh Cleaners
Scrubbing surfaces with soap and water may be all you need. This creates enough friction to remove lingering germs from surfaces. So instead of constantly using bleach and antibacterial cleaners, stick to soap and water when possible.
Stay Away from Disinfectants Until They Dry
Coming in contact with wet disinfectants can cause skin irritation. It can also cause your mouth, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs to burn.
Open a Window
Use disinfectants in a well-ventilated area to reduce fumes.
Keep Products in Original Containers
It’s easier to avoid accidental poisoning if cleaning products are correctly labeled.
What to Do if Poisoning Occurs
If you know or suspect that someone has swallowed or come in contact with a cleaning product, call 800.222.1222. Your call will be transferred to local poison control center employees. They'll tell you what you should do, depending on the type of poison and of exposure.
Call 911 immediately if the person is unconscious, struggling to breathe, agitated, having seizures, or not breathing.
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