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Tough times call for strong safety measures

COVID-19 sign

FOR RELEASE: April 6, 2020

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – In a crisis, all aspects of life can be impacted. Things we weren’t as aware of in ordinary times are now in focus, bringing new options and choices. Amidst the havoc of COVID-19, some choices now in front of us apply to everything from cleaners to hydroxychloroquine. We are bringing many of these items into our homes in hopes of keeping our families safe.

 “It is important to be aware of not only the safe use, but also the safe storage of these products,” says Gail Banach, the Upstate New York Poison Center Director of Public Education and Communications, “When schedules are disrupted, curious children fill their time with exploring, which can lead to a poisoning, especially if poisonous products are left out within their reach.”

During this time of upheaval, the Upstate New York Poison Center would like to highlight some of these new options in the news and maybe in your homes, along with safe choices for you and your family.”

Cleaning Products

People are increasing their cleaning efforts in order to protect their families. Products like pine cleaners, ammonia-based products, bleach and others are being used to reduce chances of infection. Cleaning products can be a good thing when used according to label directions. When used the wrong way, a good product can become a poison.

  • Keep all cleaning products in their original containers
  • Place them up and out of the reach of children, even during use.
  • Drinking a cleaning product or even spraying it in the face or eyes can be dangerous.
  • Do not mix cleaning products.
  • During use, more is not better and be sure the room is well-ventilated.
  • Follow all label directions, warnings and precautions.

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves these days to add to purses, cars and homes. Store-bought hand sanitizers can contain as much as 60% ethyl alcohol, more than some hard liquors. If a child drinks even a little bit, it could be fatal. Some people are electing to make hand sanitizers at home, generally using isopropyl alcohol and aloe. Both are dangerous; both are flammable.

  • Keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and away from flames.
  • Be careful not to leave hand sanitizers within easy reach of young children to prevent a poisoning or possibly a fire.

Disinfectants, Antibiotics and Antiseptics

Disinfectants by definition are meant to kill microbials, germs. Microbials include both bacterial and viral, but not all disinfectants kill both. Read the label. Disinfectants are meant to be used only on surfaces to kill germs, not on the body. Unfortunately, there have been stories in the news where well-meaning parents have sprayed a disinfectant on their children’s bodies to protect them from COVID-19. Always follow label directions and warnings before using a disinfectant. Never spray a disinfectant on the skin!

Antibiotics are medicines that are used to kill bacteria in and on the body and are generally not effective in killing a virus. Antibiotics are primarily taken orally, usually in the form of penicillin, to kill off infection inside the body.  Antibiotic topical creams are used on the body to slow or stop the growth of bacteria on the skin. Any type of prescription medication is not meant to be shared. Only the person for whom it was prescribed should ever use it.  Follow directions provided by your health care provider, aware of the number of days you should take the medication to provide optimal results.

Antiseptics are meant to slow the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms on living tissue, like your skin, to protect against infection. Alcohols, peroxide, hand sanitizers and hydrogen peroxide are some antiseptics often found in homes.

None are meant to be ingested!


Particularly at this time of upheaval in the home and all around us, be sure to think about use and storage of every medication in your home.

Keep in mind that by nature, kids are natural explorers. A recent study reported more than half of the time young children got into medication, that medicine had been taken out of its original container in preparation for the next dose. A poisoning ready to happen! Therefore, the poison center recommends medicine be left in its original container and up, away and out of the reach of children until the time you take it. Keep your children safe!


  • Dose matters! Always read label directions before giving or taking any medication.
  • Children will imitate! Avoid taking medication while they are watching.
  • Put medicine away immediately after each use, preferably in a locked medicine box.
  • Children who visit Emergency Departments often get into their grandparents’ medications.
  • Have our number programmed in your cell phone: 1-800-222-1222.

In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

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About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.