ATLANTA — Medical experts nationwide, including right here in Georgia, are warning adults and parents about an ingredient in COVID-19 testing kits that could be dangerous if misused. The warning comes as poison control centers across the country have been reporting a growing number of calls about a liquid used in the kits.
The Georgia Poison Center said they've been getting calls about the reagents, or mixtures, in the kits being ingested, spilled, and even put in peoples' eyes.
"So, recently we got a call about patients who got exposed via their eyes. And how did this happen? A five-year-old was given the reagent as an eye drop. The father mistook one product for another," Executive Director of the Georgia Poison Center, Dr. Gaylord Lopez.
He added that this look-a-like phenomenon is causing people to mistakenly use packets included in test kits as eye drops.
“What is really terrifying is that both products look really similar. In fact, as a health care professional, I couldn’t even tell the difference between what water was and what might be the chemical," Dr. Lopez explained.
He added that the center has also received over a dozen calls about both adults and children spilling the liquid contained in kits on their skin or ingesting it, with the youngest case involving a 9-month-old baby.
“There are number of chemicals that are contained in these reagent vials. Some can be as dangerous as products that can cause irritations and burns. Some may even, if absorbed enough, affect some of your vital signs like your blood pressure," Dr. Lopez said.
While he said the amounts found in most test kits are typically not enough to cause a major problem; Dr. Lopez worries the more accessible they become, the more common these incidents could happen.
“The more we use these products, the more available they are, the more easily these things are accessed. And if we got young children or pets are around, the more opportunity for poisoning," Dr. Lopez concluded.
The Georgia Poison Center recommends that if you have these test kits in your home to practice the following safety measures to keep you and your family safe.
- Store the kit up and out of sight.
- Do not take the kit out unless you are actively using it.
- Double bag it when discarding it.
The doctor also warned that the plastic vials can be choking hazards for pets and to ensure those have been cut up before properly discarding them in another bag.