People are trying to treat and prevent COVID-19 by taking ivermectin, a medication commonly used to de-worm horses – and they are poisoning themselves in the process.

ABC News reported an uptick in calls to poison control centers linked to the drug. The Missouri Poison Center alone has seen a 40 to 50 call increase in the regular amount of messages they would receive a day prior to the pandemic.

Experts are urging people to avoid the lure of fake "cures," which could cause health problems as bad or worse than a COVID-19 infection.

Rather than waiting to get the drug through proper channels, people are instead getting equestrian prescriptions through their vets and using horse-sized doses on themselves, Julie Weber, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, told ABC News.

"We just had a case of someone using a veterinary source of ivermectin, a horse medication, that contains a significantly larger dose of the drug," Weber told ABC News.

Why people are trying ivermectin

The buzz around ivermectin has been generated by the FLCCC, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), which formed at the start of the pandemic. It comprises critical care workers who previously bonded over the controversial use of vitamin C for sepsis, MedPage Today reported.

US regulators say there is not enough robust evidence or safety data to recommend ivermectin as a cure, treatment, or preventative medicine for COVID-19.

While the FLCCC has held press conferences saying studies show the drug could fight against the novel coronavirus, public health agencies and many experts say the research is lacking.

The National Institutes of Health issued a statement earlier this month, refusing to support the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 until clinical trials in humans find it to be safe and effective. The US Food and Drug Administration has also told Americans not to self-administer ivermectin intended for animals.

"I want it to work, but at the same time, this whole thing feels like déjà vu of the first two months of the pandemic when we weren't decided about hydroxychloroquine," Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at McMaster University, told MedPage Today. "We don't want to come around a year later saying it didn't help and it may have hurt."

Ivermectin can be tolerated in small doses but can poison an adult in large quantities

Ivermectin is commonly used as an anti-parasite cream on dogs, cats, and horses. It can eliminate lice, scabies, and worms in mammals.

While smaller doses of the medication can be tolerated by humans, with few side effects aside from nausea, rashes, and increased heart rate, taking a dose of ivermectin intended for an animal the size of a compact car can poison you.

According to the Missouri Poison Center, serious overdoses of ivermectin can result in seizures, coma, lung issues, and heart problems.

The Missouri Poison Center recommends people refrain from taking their pet's medication and instead wait to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines or seek medical attention if they believe they have been infected with the coronavirus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people who have accidentally poisoned themselves with household cleaners trying to disinfect their homes has jumped by 20 percent since the beginning pandemic.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

More from Business Insider: