Poison Control Center: Safe Use of Products

Safety, Sanitizing and Social Distancing: Poison Control Center Urges Safe Use of COVID Prevention Products 

Read complete press release (PDF) — See key points below.

WARNING: The New Jersey Poison Control Center warns of a surge in calls related to chemical products used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). Products must only be used according to the directions on the label – misuse can result in potentially dangerous health effects. If you have questions or an emergency regarding something you ate, touched or smelled, immediately contact the medical professionals at the New Jersey Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222 (24/7, free, confidential, information in any language) 

Many residents have been stockpiling household cleaners and disinfectants used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on high-touch surfaces. Although these products are important to have on-hand and are safe to use when following their directions, increased use and accessibility significantly increase the risk for mishaps, misuse, and mistaken identity exposures.

The New Jersey Poison Control Center recommends the following tips to prevent poisoning injuries during the COVID19 pandemic: 

  • Be prepared for an emergency. Do not guess; every minute counts in poisoning situations. 
    • Save the Poison Control Center’s contact information in your phone: 1-800-222-1222 | njpies.org
    • Call FAST to treat a poisoning - Call FIRST to prevent one!
  • Practice safe storage habits. 
    • Store potentially poisonous products in their original packaging/containers with labels. 
    • Keep them away from food and drink items and stored up out of sight and reach of children and pets. 
  • Read and follow the directions on the label. Review directions on a product’s labels before each use. 
    • When taking medicine, it’s important to follow the dosing instructions exactly as written to prevent overdose – right amount, at the right time, for the right person. 
    • For liquid medicine, only use a dosing device (syringe or cup) not a kitchen/soup spoon. 
    • Drinking alcoholic beverages while also taking medicine is extremely dangerous, as the combination may cause a serious and even fatal drug interaction. 
  • Use one cleaning or disinfecting product at a time. 
    • Disinfectants, such as bleach, ammonia, vinegar, as well as other brand‐name disinfectants (like Lysol, Clorox disinfecting wipes) can be safely used on non‐porous surfaces for disinfection, but should never be ingested or used on skin. 
    • Wear gloves to protect your skin and open windows/turn on fans for added ventilation as fumes can be overpowering if used in tight spaces. 
    • It is extremely dangerous to mix cleaning/disinfecting products together as it can form a toxic gas, putting you at risk for breathing problems and lung injuries.
  • Check active ingredients on over-counter medicines. 
    • Take only one medicine at a time with the same active ingredient. Many medicines contain the same active ingredients, even if they have different names and/or intended purposes. Taking these together, even if each is in the intended dose, can result in serious health consequences including liver damage.  
  • Self-medicating to prevent COVID-19 infection is dangerous. 
    • Currently, there are NO vaccines, treatments, medicines, vitamins, supplements or other products approved to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 infection.
    •  Although the use of some over-the-counter medications can be helpful in alleviating mild symptoms of COVID-19, ingesting unapproved products and chemicals such as disinfectants puts you at significant risk for poisoning and death.
    • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus (follow CDC recommendations including social distancing, proper hand-washing, and more).
  • Supervise kids when using hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers have a high alcohol content, often higher than most alcoholic beverages. 
    • Hand sanitizer should never replace washing hands with soap and water. If using hand sanitizer, make sure the product has more than 60% alcohol to ensure it kills germs. 
    • Children should never be allowed to use hand sanitizer without adult supervision as it can be extremely dangerous if they swallow a gulp of gel (more than a lick). It does not take much alcohol to cause serious and potentially irreversible health effects of alcohol poisoning.
    • Pets are also at risk for alcohol poisoning from ingesting hand sanitizer. 
  • Prepare and serve food safely. Although anyone is susceptible to food poisoning, the effects may be more serious for certain groups like young children, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. 
    • Put away refrigerated and frozen foods immediately to prevent bacteria growth. 
    • Wash raw foods like produce with water, but never with cleaning/disinfecting chemicals and products. 
    • Remember to wash hands with soap and water before and after handling raw food. 
    • If you have any kind of respiratory illness or infection, including coronavirus, do not prepare or serve food to others as this puts them at significant risk of becoming sick.

It’s far easier to prevent a tragedy than to treat one. In the event a poisoning emergency should occur, the state’s poison control center is available 24/7 to help with the most routine poison exposures as well as the unusual. 

Contact the New Jersey Poison Control Center

Call (1-800-222-1222), Text (973-339-0702), or Chat via the website. 

If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or having a seizure, call 9-1-1 immediately

Are you a New Jersey resident looking for information on novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? There are three options available 24/7:

  • Call 2-1-1
  • Call 1-800-962-1253 (the NJ Poison Center)
  • Text: NJCOVID to 898-211. 

Help is Just a Phone Call Away! Stay Connected: Facebook (@NJPIES) and Twitter (@NJPoisonCenter) for breaking news, safety tips, trivia questions, etc.