Parents may want to think twice before leaving bottles of hand sanitizer in reach of children. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s been a significant spike in the number of pre-teen children ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Cases of children drinking hand sanitizers have actually increased over the last six years.
The authors of the CDC study analyzed data reported to the National Poison Data System (NPDS) between 2011 and 2014 and found more than 15,000 reported incidents each year. Other key findings include:
- 92.4% were children less than six years old.
- 92% was hand sanitizer with alcohol in it.
- 97% of the 0-to-5-year-olds and 74% of the 6-to-12-year-olds had put hand sanitizer in their mouths.
Older children (aged 6-12 years) were more likely to report intentional ingestion and to have adverse health effects and worse outcomes than were younger children, suggesting that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers.
There had been a trend of teenagers drinking hand sanitizer for the purpose of intoxication, but the younger children most likely ingested the liquid because of the smell. Many hand sanitizers come in sweet scents similar to fruit or candy, and that can spark curiosity in kids to want to taste it, rationalizing that if it smells good, it must taste good. Take for example the case of six-year-old Nhaijah Russell who swallowed about three or four squirts of liquid hand sanitizer at school because it tasted like strawberry. Nhaijah’s blood-alcohol level was .179, twice what’s considered legally drunk in an adult. That is because the amount of alcohol in hand sanitizers ranges from 45%- 95% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. By comparison, wine and beer contain about 12% and 5% alcohol respectively. So this means that even in small amounts the ingestion of hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning, liver damage, and potentially death.
The necessity for hand sanitizers has already been debunked. Soap and water are still the recommended suggestion for battling germs. Most hand sanitizers contain harmful chemicals such as Triclosan and Parabens that cause adverse effects even when used for its intended purpose. When possible, people should avoid hand sanitizers, and parents should be lobbying for schools to remove alcohol-based hand sanitizers from the premises altogether. Children should also be made aware of the potential dangers associated with intentional or unintentional ingestion of alcohol hand sanitizers to help encourage proper use when necessary as to avoid adverse outcomes.