Florida Poison Control Center seeing a spike in calls during COVID-19 quarantine

Officials say keep hand sanitizer out of reach
Posted at 3:38 AM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 09:33:58-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Poison Control centers are seeing a “significant” exposure to disinfecting agents, including hand sanitizers, during the COVID-19 quarantine across the state, according to the information director.

"The amount of rise is surprising,” said Alfred Aleguas, the poison information director in Tampa. “There are a lot of factors that you think would account for that. One would be being a lot more judicious about cleaning.”

Aleguas also said he believes the spike in calls is due in part because children are at home instead of at school.

The Poison Information Center has also received a spike in calls about certain vapors mixing together.

“They’re thinking, well, one thing cleans well, let’s put them both together and it will work great," Aleguas said.

If you feel you, a family member or loved one has been exposed to something dangerous and call the emergency hotline.


First, a poison specialist runs down a checklist of questions when receiving a call to the hotline. First, they assess the nature of the exposure and how significant is it.

Then, specialists consider any symptoms, what is the potential for toxicity, and is it something the caller can manage at home, or if the caller needs to be seen by a medical team.

To stay safe, Aleguas said families need to read the labels on products before using them. He warns against mixing certain cleaning products or chemicals. Now, he's encouraging people to use products as directed.

Also, he said to store products out of reach, especially keeping all cleaning products and chemicals away from children. This includes hand sanitizer, a particular danger due to the high concentration of alcohol. He said hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60 percent alcohol to work well.

“For a little kid to get a mouthful that, it doesn’t take too much of that to get them an amount that could be dangerous," Aleguas said.

The Florida Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and calls are completely confidential. When you call, you will speak to a nurse, pharmacist or physician for free, according to Aleguas.

The Florida Poison Control Center encourages people to contact them with any questions or concerns.