Expert Advice: Precautions for at-home COVID-19 test kits
Host Amber Smith: Here's some expert advice from Dr. Vincent Calleo, medical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center. What's important to know about the COVID-19 at-home test kits?
Vincent Calleo, MD: There are a number of really important things to know about these test kits. First, we're very happy that we're seeing a larger number of these kits out in the community so that the population can safely test and know if they or their family members are sick and help to quarantine to help try to get this pandemic under control. But with that being said, I think it's important to know that there are risks that can go along with these test kits, if there's an accidental exposure to some of the contents.
Now within these test kits, there are small liquid vials that contain one of the ingredients to essentially use in the test to figure out if a person is positive or negative when it comes to COVID-19. Fortunately these bottles are usually very small, and the amount of liquid contained in them is pretty trivial. But it's important to remember that even small amounts can potentially cause symptoms, especially because there are a number of different test kits, and some test kits have more dangerous chemicals in them than others.
So, a few things that we think about with these exposures are remembering A. What type of a test kit it is. B. How much of the chemical the person may have been exposed to. And C. What type of chemicals are within the individual kit. That's all really important information for people to know as they're trying to figure out how sick a person may become. Now in terms of what we've been seeing at the poison center, there have been an uptick in the number of cases that we've seen. And over the last few weeks, our poison center alone has received over a dozen calls for accidental exposures to these COVID-19 test kits.
So it's important to remember that if someone is exposed to the substance, remember to stay calm. That's always going to be the first step. Next, you want to go ahead and give us a call at the poison center (1-800-222-1222) and we'd be more than happy to help walk you through what symptoms you may develop or whether or not you should seek immediate health care evaluation. Some of the symptoms that are more common can include things like nausea and vomiting, as well as stomach upset, but there are a number of different other ones out there, particularly depending on how much you were exposed to and what chemicals were within the test kit themselves.
So some things that families can do to help decrease the likelihood of an accidental exposure are going to be things like keeping these test kits out of sight and out of reach for children and pets. That's one of the first steps you can do. The next thing is reading the instructions and knowing how to perform the test properly. And after the test is performed, making sure that it's safely disposed of. These are a few simple steps that families can do at home to help to decrease the likelihood that anyone within that home may be exposed unintentionally or accidentally to any of the chemicals within that test kit.
And just remember, whether or not someone is exposed and has symptoms, or if they're asymptomatic, we are always here at the poison center to help provide guidance as to what someone should do after an exposure occurs. We're here 24/7. 365 at 1-800-222-1222. And we're always happy to help answer any questions we can.
Host Amber Smith: You've been listening to Dr. Vincent Calleo, medical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center.