Reminder: Safe Use of Bleach and Disinfectants


According to Dr. Elizabeth Scharman, Director of the West Virginia Poison Center, compared to the same time period as last year, “the number of poisoning exposures in West Virginia from bleach products and disinfectants has doubled.  Of note is that the majority of cases this year involve teens and adults.”  Children < 6 typically make up the majority of poisonings from these products.  Poisonings with hand sanitizers also continue. 

The West Virginia Poison Center (WVPC) wants to remind people that the safest way to keep our skin clean is with soap and water.  Not only is this safe, it is a very effective way to kill the virus causing COVID-19 that might be on our skin.  Attempting to clean with skin with disinfectant wipes or bleach solution is not only not necessary, these products can damage the skin and potentially cause coughing when the fumes are inhaled.  Soap and water really is enough. 

If you are not near soap and water, for example when getting back to your car after leaving the grocery store or gas station, hand sanitizer can be used as long as the alcohol content is 60% or more.  Now that more hand sanitizer products are required to be made in non-traditional ways, since the products you would normally buy are not always available, there are added risks.  Non-traditional hand sanitizer may come in bottles without the usual pump.  This requires special caution.  Just because it comes in a bottle that looks like a mini-bottle of liquor or a medicine bottle, NEVER drink hand sanitizer.  This can be dangerous and it will not kill any viruses that you have already inhaled or that already in your body.

Save bleach products and disinfectants for your counters and other surfaces.  This is where they can work to kill the virus causing COVID-19.  Drinking these products or purposefully inhaling them can harm you, not help you.  These products have no way to get to where the virus is harming your cells and internal organs. 

Finally, keeping the cloth masks you are using clean is important.  The best way to keep them clean is to wash them in warm or hot water with soap.  Do not spray them with bleach or disinfectant.  The fumes will irritate your lungs the next time you wear the mask and these products can break down the material.

Please stay safe, not only from COVID-19, but from the products you use every day now.  For any poisoning concerns or questions, the WV Poison Center is still available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-222-1222. 

About the West Virginia Poison Center:

The WVPC is staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians with special training in treatment of poisonings. www.wvpoisoncenter.org.

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