Before vaccines were available, researchers were looking into finding ways to combat COVID-19 and did a study on ivermectin. These ivermectin COVID studies were not done on humans and did not prove this medication is an effective way to treat or prevent COVID-19. Yet, poison centers have had an increase in calls regarding ivermectin poisoning in the past year.
It’s vital to read published CDC reports and check with professional health care providers about current research before following popular — sometimes fatal — rumors.
What is Ivermectin?
Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication that veterinarians prescribe for household pets and farm animals. Veterinarians prescribe this medication to treat parasitic infections like lice, scabies, and worms. Many pet owners have a form of this medication in a chewable tablet for their dog or cat to prevent heartworm infections. It also comes in a topical lotion that pet owners apply to their dog or cat’s skin.
Veterinary formulations for use on larger animals such as horses, cattle, and sheep have a high concentration of this substance and, if used by humans, can lead to poisoning. Even products for dogs and cats that contain this medication can be dangerous to humans. Some animal medications contain inactive ingredients which are not for human consumption.
Is There A Human Version of Ivermectin?
Yes, there is an ivermectin medication that the FDA approves for parasitical infections in humans at very specific doses. For head lice and rosacea, there are topical formulations. Ivermectin has not been approved as an anti-viral.
When taken in the appropriate doses and for the purpose of treating parasitic infections, people usually tolerate this medicine well. But, some common side effects include itching or rash, muscle aches, increased heart rate, headache, fever, and upset stomach.
If someone takes more than the prescribed dosage or uses an ivermectin product for animals, they risk poisoning.
Ivermectin & COVID-19
This year, poison centers across the United States have received calls about ivermectin poisoning at an alarming rate. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) released a study showing the increase of cases this year vs. last year. For example, in August 2020, there were a total of 58 calls regarding ivermectin poisoning. While in August 2021, there were 459 case calls. There were a total of 435 calls between January 2020 – August 2020. According to data retrieved from the National Poison Data System (NPDS), there were 1,143 exposure case reports to the 55 U.S. Poison Control Centers (Jan. 1, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2021) which resulted in an increase of 163% compared to the same time period during the previous year. Many of these calls are from people ingesting products with this medication that they purchased without a prescription or ingesting products made for animals.
What Are Symptoms Of An Ivermectin Poisoning Or Overdose?
Some common symptoms of an ivermectin overdose include gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The Missouri Poison Center has helped with many accidental and some intentional ivermectin poisonings. Most calls about this substance are about someone mistaking their pet’s medication or making an error with applying topical lotion for lice. In these cases, most symptoms are similar to gastrointestinal symptoms or common side effects.
This past year, there have been more reports of intentional overdoses. These cases can result in serious hypotension and neurological effects such as confusion, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.
Advice From The Missouri Poison Center’s Trained Staff
Ivermectin has not been proven to prevent or treat COVID-19. Therefore, it is critical to use this medication for its intended use to help with parasitic infections and to follow the proper dosage instructed by your physician. Above all, do not try to self-treat COVID-19 with ivermectin or other medications that have not been FDA approved.
If you have any questions about ivermectin or any other medication, please call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice. We have trained pharmacists, nurses, and medical toxicologists standing by 365 days a year, 24/7.