How COVID-19 Lockdown in Italy Has Affected Type of Calls and Management of Toxic Exposures: a Retrospective Analysis of a Poison Control Center Database From March 2020 to May 2020.J Med Toxicol. 2021 07; 17(3):250-256.JM
Between early March 2020 and the end of May 2020, Italy issued strict measures to limit further spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and became the first European country that imposed a lockdown on the population. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of these restricted conditions on the activity of the Poison Control Center (PCC) of Policlinico Umberto I Hospital-Sapienza University of Rome.
This was a retrospective analysis of calls received by the PCC during the lockdown period March 9, 2020 through May 31, 2020 compared to the same time period in year 2019 (reference).
We observed a reduction in calls from hospitals and emergency departments and an increase in calls from private citizens about exposures to products or intoxications during the lockdown. There were increases in unintentional exposures and exposures to hand and surface sanitizers among household and cleaning products. There was a decrease in calls concerning medications, which were mostly from hospitals and emergency departments. We observed increases in exposures requiring clinical observations among adults and referral to the emergency department among pre-school children.
Public health protection measures against COVID-19 to improve hygiene and maintain clean environments can increase exposures to hazardous products in the domestic environment. We observed an increase in unintentional exposures to household and cleaning products during the lockdown and an increase in ED referrals for pre-school children compared to the previous year. Our data suggest the need for improvements in public campaigns that promote safer handling of household products and prevent unnecessary exposures during a lockdown. The public health promotion activity can benefit the community after the pandemic and prepare the community for lockdowns in the future.