Virginia poison center reminder: Do not drink bleach to cure coronavirus

The Blue Ridge Poison Center is issuing guidance after hearing from people on several "tips" to...
The Blue Ridge Poison Center is issuing guidance after hearing from people on several "tips" to prevent the disease that are downright dangerous.(WHSV)
Updated: Mar. 14, 2020 at 6:35 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) - As people around the world search for the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a lot of confusing, incomplete, and inaccurate information has been circulating, especially on social media.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center is issuing guidance after hearing from people on several “tips” to prevent dangerous diseases.

The main tip is: Drinking bleach will not prevent coronavirus infection and can also cause serious injury.

Claims on social media have encouraged people to drink bleach to protect themselves from the virus.

When used correctly, cleaning products can be a safe and effective weapon against the spread of disease-causing germs, like the coronavirus.

In particular, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using diluted bleach solutions on frequently touched surfaces. Hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60% is recommended for killing COVID-19 on the hands, especially when soap and water are unavailable.

But when used incorrectly, like drinking them? They're not cleaning and disinfecting your body. They're toxic.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center says that exposure to cleaning products is the second leading cause of calls to poison centers nationwide.

Children under the age of 6 are particularly at risk. Their curiosity leads them to handle products left within reach, and they may mistake cleaning products for something safe to eat or drink.

But adults are at risk for accidental exposure to cleaning products, too. The BRPC receives many calls every year from adults who mistakenly swallowed a cleaning product that had been transferred into a food or beverage container, such as an empty soda bottle.

Some cleaning products (including bleach) are caustic, meaning they can cause burns when swallowed or when sprayed or splashed onto the skin or into the eyes.

Mixing certain cleaning products together is also dangerous. This could create a poisonous gas that causes coughing and serious breathing problems.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center recommends that people follow the CDC guidelines for careful cleaning and disinfecting practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

They offer this advice for using and storing cleaning products safely:

  • Keep products ‘up and away,’ out of the sight and reach of children and pets.
  • Leave products in their original, labeled containers. If you transfer a cleaning product into a food or beverage container (such as an empty soda bottle) someone may swallow it by mistake.
  • Always supervise young children when using hand sanitizer. Children commonly lick their hands after an adult applies hand sanitizer. This is not an amount expected to cause serious injury. However, if a child drinks from a bottle of hand sanitizer, intoxication could result.
  • Don’t mix cleaning products together to create a stronger effect. Certain combinations could create harmful gases.
  • Some ingredients in “natural” or homemade products, such as essential oils, may also be quite poisonous if swallowed or mixed with other products. “Natural” does not always mean safe!

Need help? Call the Blue Ridge Poison Center if someone may have swallowed, touched, or breathed a harmful substance. A trained health care provider will tell you exactly what to do. Have a question? Non-emergency calls are always welcome too, according to the center. Calls are free and confidential. 1-800-222-1222. Day or night.

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