By Elly Cosgrove | March 25, 2021 at 8:07 PM EDT – Updated March 25 at 11:45 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The pandemic drove people to use more cleaning products and hand sanitizer in 2020 in an effort to stay healthy and safe. Unsurprisingly, in that same time frame, there was an increase in poison exposures to cleaning products in North Carolina.
North Carolina Poison Control (NCPC) reported 7,000 cases of exposure to cleaning products in 2020 — a 23% increase from the previous year.
However, one expert with NCPC can’t say for sure whether that increase in exposure was a direct result of the pandemic.
“Our main focus is managing the exposure, accessing and seeing if any treatment needs to be done,” said Dr. Anna Dulaney, a clinical toxicologist with NCPC. “We did see an increase. Now, whether or not that was actually related to the pandemic, we didn’t do that type or research so I can’t say for sure.”
Dr. Dulaney also says there was a shift in the types of substances they were called about for child exposure cases.
For children, cosmetics and personal care products are typically the number one reason for exposure and cleaning products are normally the number two reason. In 2020, cleaning products climbed to number one and personal care products fell to number two.
Last year, 47% of exposures to cleaning products involved children five years old and younger.
Dr. Dulaney said preventing these exposures requires practicing good prevention techniques.
“Follow all directions, follow the printed labels, wear gloves if it says so,” said Dulaney. “Do not mix cleaners or substances at all, use in a well ventilated area. If you’re not using them, if they have a nozzle and an on/off switch — turn those off and up and away from children.”
She also said that you should not assume that a small child will understand that something is dangerous or that they shouldn’t taste it and added that the best thing you can do is to make sure that things such as cleaning products and sanitizers are put up and away from children after every use.
There was also a slight uptick in exposures to cleaning products for adults as well. However, medications, like over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications, all were among the top four substances for adult exposures, according to Dr. Dulaney.
If a child or adult is exposed to one of those cleaning products, Dr. Dulaney said you should immediately take it away from them, clean or rinse out the mouth, wash off any skin surfaces that have been exposed, and then call NCPC at 1-800-222-1222.
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