More Kids Are Getting Sick From Drinking Hand Sanitizers, CDC Reports

Posted March 07, 2017

During 2011-2014, 70,669 hand sanitiser exposures in children aged 12 years were reported, of which 65,293 (92%) were alcohol exposures and 5,376 (8%) were non alcohol exposures. Scientists discovered that children may be tempted to swallow the substance, the outcome of which can result in severe repercussions.

'Hand sanitizers are effective and affordable products that can reduce microorganisms on the skin, but ingestion or improper use can be associated with health risks, ' the authors write. During 2011-2014, more than 70,000 alcohol-based hand sanitizer cases are were reported to poison control centers across the USA and a lot of them may have been accidental with 91 percent occurring in kids aged 5 and under. The huge bulk of these (906 cases) came from the older kids in the age 6-12 years bracket, which the report says is an indicator "that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers". Among that age group, 97% of exposures were oral ingestions.

The most common adverse health effects for both hand sanitizer types were ocular irritation (2,577; 31.4%) and vomiting (1,872; 22.8%). Five kids even fell into comas, three had seizures, two had respiratory depression, and two experienced hypoglycemia. The study found that majority of intentional exposures to alcohol hand sanitizers occurred in more than 15,000 children aging 6 to 12-years-old every year according to Forbes. Most of these exposures may have been accidental, with 91% occurring in children aged 5 and younger.

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The reason for this seasonal trend is unknown but might be associated with flu season or more ready access to hand sanitisers during the school year, researchers said.

Hand sanitizer is great for when you get off public transportation, or when you use a particularly nasty bathroom, but you should never, ever be drinking it.

Bottom line: sanitizers are a great alternative in a pinch, but if you have a chance to wash your hands instead, it's always better. If soap and water are not available, use of a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is suggested.§ Other options, such as nonalcohol hand sanitizers or wipes, can be used if soap and water or alcohol hand sanitizers are not available or practical. Hand washing with plain soap and water is safe and effective and does not carry these associated risks.