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U.S. Poison Centers Have Received Over 12,000 Hand Sanitizer Calls This Year

Poison centers nationwide have received more than 12,000 calls so far this year involving children exposed to hand sanitizer products, according to a new report. 

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) warns that hand sanitizer poisoning is quite common among young children and has the potential to cause serious health risks.

As of August 2018, poison control centers managed 12,193 exposure reports involving potential hand sanitizer poisoning among children 12 years and younger. A similar report was issued in March, warning that 3,500 poisoning reports were received in the first two months of the year, and the high rate of calls has continued.

Hand sanitizer products often come in bright colors, with scents similar to food and candy, including some that contain glitter or fun characters in the bottles, which make the products especially appealing to young children.

While a child is able to lick or ingest a small amount of hand sanitizer from their hands without becoming sick, if they swallow even a dime-sized amount, they will most likely experience alcohol poisoning.

The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 40 to 90%. By comparison, wine contains about 10-15% and beer 5-10% alcohol. Most hand sanitizer products contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors.

Children who suffer alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizer may experience confusion, vomiting, and drowsiness. In severe cases, they may suffer respiratory arrest, or even death.

Roughly 9,300 reports of hand sanitizer poisonings were recorded in the first half of 2017. More than 70,000 reports of hand sanitizer poisoning among children were recorded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2011 to 2014, involving both alcohol based and non-alcohol based hand sanitizers.

For that reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently called on hand sanitizer manufacturers to produce more data concerning the safety of the products, which are widely used by consumers of all ages.

Hand sanitizer poisonings have increased among children in recent years. However, part of the increase may be attributed to increased awareness the risk the products pose to children.

Researchers warn parents should focus on preventing exposure to hand sanitizer by following these safety rules:

  • Keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children.
  • Only allow children to use hand sanitizer under adult supervision.
  • Only apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands and rub hands together until completely dry.

If you suspect your child has ingested hand sanitizer, call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.

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