What to do if you’re exposed to chemicals in at-home COVID tests

Keep test kits away from children

As those free-at-home COVID tests are beginning to arrive in homes across America, some poison control centers are issuing a warning. Dr. Frank McGeorge explains what the concern is and the steps you need to take, especially if you have young children at home.

DETROIT – Free at-home COVID tests are beginning to arrive in homes across America and some Poison Control centers are issuing a warning.

Each of the kits will include small bottles of liquid and those contain the compounds needed to create the chemical reaction that gives you the result of the test.

They are completely safe if used as directed, but should be treated like other chemicals and medications and kept out of the reach of children and pets.

The tests come in various brands and packaging.

“A lot of them involve the little liquid vials, droppers and test tubes that contain a liquid chemical,” Dr. Anthony Jaworski said.

Jaworski runs the Poison Control unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He said they’ve received more calls involving exposures from at-home COVID tests over the past two months.

One concern is a preservative called sodium azide, an ingredient the FDA says is hazardous. Some children are drinking it and some adults have mistaken it for eye drops.

Most exposures are minor.

“Worst case scenarios it may cause a drop in blood pressure, but it’s not something we expect to hear. Just the concentration is far below the level of concern,” Jaworski said.

Experts say to reduce the risk you should store kits out of the sight and reach of children. Read the instructions when you use it and follow them carefully. When finished with the contents of the kit, dispose of it immediately. Just make sure to take a picture of the results in case you need it later.

If you do have an accidental exposure to any of the chemicals in the test kits, flush the skin or eyes with water immediately. If someone consumes the liquid, you should call Poison Control right away for instructions. The number is 800-222-1222.

Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage


About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.