Poison control centers across America have been seeing an increase in calls about children who are getting very sick from drinking hand sanitizers. Poison control officials are warning parents and school officials about this dangerous trend involving small children, basically getting drunk, on hand sanitizer.
“A doctor called us about a week and a half ago about two cases he saw the same day at the ER,” says Gaylord Lopez, PharmD, director of the Georgia Poison Center. “It was a 5- and a 6-year-old.”
The first patient, a 6-year-old girl, was picked up after school stumbling and slurring her words. She’d also fallen and hit her head. Her mother drove her straight to the ER, where doctors found out she’d eaten two to three squirts of strawberry-scented hand sanitizer from a big container sitting on her teacher’s desk.
Her blood alcohol level was 1.79, almost twice what would be considered the legal limit in an adult.
The second case was a 5-year-old boy, who came in with a blood alcohol level of 2.0. The culprit was hand sanitizer.
Lopez checked the national data and saw these cases were part of an unrecognized trend. In 2010, U.S. poison centers got more than 3,600 calls about kids under age 12 eating hand sanitizers. By 2013, that number had swelled to more than 16,000 calls.
“That’s a 400 percent increase,” Lopez says. “I was surprised more than anyone.”
Many of the hand sanitizer bottles come in bright colors and the sanitizer itself smells like bubble gum and other tasty treats such as lemonade and vanilla. All aromas a child might mistake for the real thing.
The big problem with these products are that they can be anywhere from 40 to 95 percent alcohol.
Drinking even just little bit can make kids intoxicated. It’s like drinking a shot or two of hard liquor.
“You and I don’t have any problem sending our kids with hand sanitizer in their backpacks. But what if I told you that was twice as potent as vodka. That’s like a parent sending a bottle of whiskey or rum to school,” Lopez says.
Alcohol poisoning can cause a child’s heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to slow. They may stagger, seem sleepy and vomit. Their blood sugar can drop rapidly leading to seizures and coma.
Lopez says hand sanitizers are often included in the list of school supplies parents should send to school. He says many adults he’s talked to don’t realize that hand sanitizers contain so much alcohol, or they don’t realize that it’s the kind of alcohol that can cause intoxication.
“I wanted to get the word out. Parents should be aware. Teachers should be aware.”
If you have hand sanitizer at home, keep it out of the reach of young children. If you send hand sanitizer with your child to school- especially during the flu and cold season- use the wipes instead.
You can learn more about hand sanitizer poisoning by calling the American Association of Poison Control Center for free advice at 1-800-222-1222.
If you suspect your child may have ingested sanitizer and is showing any of the above symptoms, take your child to the hospital immediately.
Source: Brenda Goodman, MA, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150915/hand-sanitizers-poisoning-kids