Child Eye Injuries Linked To Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers: Study

Amid the the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the findings of a new study suggest the number of children experiencing eye injuries from alcohol-based hand sanitizers has increased dramatically.

Since 2019, there has been a seven-fold increase in the rate of children experiencing injuries to their eyes from alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which is largely due to the increased use of hand sanitizer to kill germs during the coronavirus pandemic, according to findings published January 21, in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

French researchers conducted a retrospective study using data from a national database of the French Poison Control Centers, and from a pediatric ophthalmology referral hospital in Paris, France, from April 2020 to August 2020.

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Cases of eye exposure in children younger than 18 years during the study period were reviewed and cases of alcohol-based hand sanitizer exposure were included.

The data indicates the pandemic resulted in a sharp risk i of alcohol-based hand sanitizer-related ocular exposures among children in 2020. Even within the past year, the number of cases occurring in public places increased from 16% in May to more than 52% by August. The increase is certainly an unintended result of the widespread use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to aid with killing bacteria in the absence of hand washing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These findings support that, despite the importance of alcohol-based hand sanitizers for controlling the spread of coronavirus disease 2019, these agents should be used with caution and likely kept away from young children,” the researchers wrote.

During the study period, admissions to the hospital for eye exposures to hand sanitizer  increased as well. In 2010, 16 children were admitted for serious eye injuries and in 2019 only one child was admitted for serious eye injuries.

Of the children admitted in 2010, eight presented with a corneal or conjunctival ulcer and six children had injuries involving more than 50% of the corneal surface. In two cases, the children required amniotic membrane transplants.

During the 2020 study period, the pediatric ophthalmology center reported 13% of patients required surgery for severe lesions.

“These data support the likelihood of an increasing number of unintentional ocular exposures to alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the pediatric population,” wrote researchers. “To maintain good public compliance with hand disinfection, these findings support that health authorities should ensure the safe use of these devices and warn the parents and caregivers about their potential danger for children.”

Hundreds of hand sanitizer products have been recalled, banned or put on “do not use” lists as manufacturers looking to take advantage of sales during the global pandemic are using methanol, which is not approved for topical use and can lead to several adverse side effects, including death, seizures, and blindness.

Some hand sanitizers were recalled for looking like children’s food items, leading to many young children to ingest the harmful product and suffer severe health side effects.

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