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Wear The Gown: Answering your questions about proper disinfectant use

We find out how to properly use disinfectants from the experts at University Health System and the South Texas Poison Center.

SAN ANTONIO — We are all using disinfectants to clean our homes, but how do we make sure we are using them properly and keeping our family safe? 

Answering your questions about proper disinfectant use is Dr. Shawn Varney, an emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist with University Health System and UT Health San Antonio. He is also the medical director of the South Texas Poison Center.

Is it ever safe to ingest or inject or swallow any type of disinfectant?

Dr. Varney: "These disinfectants are to kill viruses and bacteria and living organisms on external surfaces. We don't swallow them. We don't inhale them. We don't inject them because it will only lead to bad outcomes."

There are many types of disinfectants, how do we know if we are using them properly?

Dr. Varney: "The most important thing about using a disinfectant and using it properly and the best way to find out proper use is to read the label. We run into problems when we skip the safety measures and just start applying them in dangerous ways or overly using them."

Should bleach and ammonia be used together to clean?

Dr. Varney: "Using ammonia and bleach together can lead to problems.  A dangerous chemical is formed and causes irritation burning to your eyes your mouth and your airway. I would recommend not mixing the two chemicals."

How do we keep children safe when we are using household disinfectants?

Dr. Varney: "If we can keep the cleaning products out of sight then the children won't have any temptation or the urge to reach for the cleaning product and then put it in their mouth."

How do you know if you overuse a disinfectant?

Dr. Varney: "If you overuse a disinfectant on the surface externally it probably does not matter as much as long as you allow it to dry and you are not touching it and not touching your eyes or your mouth or other parts of your body. If you overuse it and get it on you or you immediately start using or using those wet surfaces then you might have irritation to your skin or your eyes or some coughing, a little irritation in your mouth."

How do I know I’m using a disinfectant properly to keep my pet safe?

Dr. Varney: "We must remember the animals are smaller living systems. You could compare your small dog to a small child. Would you want your child to get into that? Probably not."

How long should you allow disinfectants to sit on the counter or a surface before you can expect it to kill the germs?

Dr. Varney: "I would allow enough time for the liquid to dry what that means is so you can run your hand on it and know it is not wet anymore. Allowing sufficient drying time, which may be a few minutes, would ensure you that you are not going to get that chemical on your skin or get it in your eyes or get it into your food."

For more information about family health, call (210) 358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.

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