Hand Sanitizer Poisoning Concerns Result in More Than 9,300 Reports of Child Exposure In First Half Of 2017

Thousands of reports have been received by poison control centers nationwide this year involving children exposed to hand sanitizer liquid, according to a new warning that highlights the risk of alcohol poisoning linked to the popular products found in many homes, and commonly carried by parents nationwide to protect against germs. 

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) issued a hand sanitizer poisoning warning this month, which indicates that reports were received involving at least 9,332 exposures to hand sanitizer involving children 12 years of age and younger, between January 1 and June 30, 2017.

Exposures involve cases where the child is believed to have consumed some amount of the hand sanitizer, raising concerns about poisoning risks.

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The AAPCC warns that many parents are unaware of the child poisoning risk with hand sanitizers. A child who licks hand sanitizer from their hand may not experience any problems or become sick. However, a child who swallows more than a lick may face a high risk for alcohol poisoning.

The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizers ranges from 40 percent up to 95 percent. Most contain over 60 percent ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol has a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors. Comparatively, wine contains 10 to 15 percent alcohol, while beer may contain 5 to 10 percent alcohol.

Hand sanitizers are also packaged in brightly colored bottles. Many contain glitter and are scented to smell like food or candy. These characteristics are highly appealing to young children, and some may think the products actually contain food.

A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued in March warned hand sanitizer poisonings were quickly becoming an emerging problem for young children. The CDC report indicated more than 70,000 reports of exposure were recorded by the agency from 2011 to 2014, involving both alcohol based and non-alcohol based hand sanitizers.

Researchers indicate that while hand sanitizer poisoning exposures have increased in recent years due to better reporting, many parents are more aware of the risk the product poses. Additionally, the media has focused attention to the threat. However, more and more kids are simply enticed by the products.

Children who experience alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizers may experience confusion, vomiting and drowsiness. In severe cases, children will experience respiratory arrest and even death.

Safety officials warn, parents should always keep hand sanitizer out of the reach of children, and only allow a child to use hand sanitizers with adult supervision.

For adults, when using the products on themselves, they should make sure to only apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands. The product should always be rubbed in until it is completely dry.

If you suspect a child has ingested hand sanitizer contact your local poison control center immediately by calling 800-222-1222.


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