This time of year, the Illinois Poison Center’s call volume starts to increase for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons has to do with the use of pesticides in the home. Here are the top 5 most frequently asked questions about insecticides:
1. Can I use outdoor-use pesticides inside the house if I have a really bad bug problem?
No! There is a major difference in the safety level of the two products. Most indoor bug sprays contain a specific class of insecticides called pyrethriods. Many indoor formulations are made with this particular class because it has a good safety profile and specifically targets insects (not mammals). Outdoor use insecticides often contain other, much more toxic insecticides. One example of an outdoor insecticide class is organophosphates, which work the same way as nerve gas! These more toxic insecticides are only used outdoors where there is much more ventilation, dilution (by rain) and is also far from beds, food, etc. If you are unable to control your pests with indoor insecticides, it’s time to consult a professional.
2. Are indoor pesticides safe, especially around children?
When the package directions are followed, these products are considered safe. Many insecticide accidents are the result of not following all of the directions, restrictions, and precautions on the label. In addition to the active insecticide ingredient, these products contain “inert” ingredients, which are inactive solvents and propellants but may pose a toxicity hazard.
- Make sure everyone in the household knows when and where insecticides are being used.
- After application, store all pesticides in an area inaccessible by children such as a locked cabinet or garden shed (remember the caps are child-resistant, not child-proof).
- Keep pesticides in their original containers, never in containers that could be mistaken for beverages or food.
- Never use or purchase any pesticide that does not have an EPA registration number, directions for use, or ingredients on the package. Illicitly marketed pesticides are nearly always more toxic than those approved for indoor use.
3. What symptoms should I watch for in case there is a problem with indoor-use pesticides?
The most common symptom of exposure to pyrethroids includes a skin rash. Other, more serious symptoms associated with large exposures include dizziness, tremors, cough, or trouble breathing. If you suspect that someone is having symptoms from any insecticide, call the IPC at 1-800-222-1222.
4. How long should I leave my home after I set off a ‘bug-bomb’ or pesticide fogger?
Always follow directions as they appear on the container. Make sure to do the fumigation on a day when you are able to leave the home for the appropriate amount of time. Make sure to ventilate and vacuum the area, after the fogger has been set off, but before allowing your family to spend time in the room.
5. Do I need to clean toys, dishes, sheets, etc after setting off a fogger?
Yes. It’s recommended that you remove these types of items from the room where you plan on setting off the fogger. Afterward, wash anything that will come into prolonged contact with skin (like bedding) or mouth (dishes or child’s toys) that was in the room with the fogger.
Another note specifically about foggers—they often contain flammable propellants such as isobutene or propane, which can pose an explosion hazard. Heed package warnings about shutting off pilot lights, or other sources of flame that could ignite.
Also, as Memorial Day weekend approaches, another thing to remember about insecticides or bug spray, is that they are not the same thing as insect repellent. Insect repellent is sprayed onto the skin to keep bugs off of people (Off®, Cutter®); insecticides are used on surfaces to kill household pests that have set up shop in your abode (Raid®). DO NOT apply a household insecticide directly to the skin. Click here for a free IPC Complimentary Safety Packet (includes a sticker, magnet and first aid recommendations for a potential poisoning).