Coronavirus: Florida Poison Information Hotline seeing major uptick in calls

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Across the county, the coronavirus pandemic is leading to a dangerous side effect, as emergency rooms are seeing more accidental poisonings from disinfectants.

Calls to the poison control hotline have been rising since the beginning of the pandemic; in some cases up 100 percent.

Inside the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami the questions coming in seem alarming.

"One question for instance was, 'If I want to treat my lungs, should I boil the bleach and inhale the vapors?' and we were like, don’t do that," said Dr. Wendy Stephan with the Florida Poison Information Center.

People calling in are asking for recommendations.

"'How can I ingest or inject it,' or, 'Is it better to inject it in a child or is it better to drink it?'" said Dr. Stephan.

From March 1st to April 27th, when comparing 2019 to 2020:

•Household cleaning product exposure calls here are up 41%

•Bleach exposures up 49%

•Disinfectant exposures calls up 127%

•Hand sanitizer exposures up 87%

"They are mixing them with multiple different products, so instead of just using bleach diluted with water, they are putting bleach with dish detergent, bleach with vinegar, bleach with ammonia," explained Dr. Stephan. "All of these products that can cause respiratory gases and things that are really irritating, or they’re getting them in their eyes, and their children are getting into these products; they are getting them on their skin."

In the time since President Trump mentioned disinfectant injections, people have been calling with troubling requests.

"We saw 17 cases between the 22nd of April and today, where people were asking, 'OK, I want to do this, but I want to know how to do it," said Dr. Stephan, who added that one main concern is that people are even considering internal use.

"The real issue is people are frightened," she said. "They're frightened (and) they’re doing things they would not normally do. This is an unusual time. We don’t have a lot of good options in terms of treatment, and so people are willing to try things they would not normally try."

The Florida Poison Information Center can be reached at 800-222-1222.

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