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article imageFive-year-old almost dies after getting drunk off hand sanitizer

By Yukio Strachan     Jan 12, 2013 in Health
Grand Rapids - A five-year-old girl is recovering from alcohol poisoning after the kindergartner drank an entire bottle of hand sanitizer at school Tuesday, telling her mother "strawberry chocolate was her favorite."
Coming on the heels of cough medicine, doctors around the country say hand sanitizer is the latest in a string of household products purposefully ingested to induce intoxication, and it has public health officials worried.
Back in April, ABC News reported that liquid hand sanitizer is 62 to 65 percent ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits, making it 120-proof. To compare, a bottle of vodka is 80-proof.
In some instances, older kids who cannot purchase or obtain alcohol legally, use salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, making a drink that’s similar to a shot of hard liquor.
But Leanne Arndt said her five-year-old daughter wasn't trying to get drunk from the sanitizer. The little girl just loved the different scents. For instance, at one time, the youngster took 15 bottles from her home to school and used them all day long. Arndt said she took them away from her.
“I’ve seen her smell it and say it smelled good, but I’ve never seen her taste it," Arndt said.
That all changed on Tuesday when the five-year-old was rushed to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. The child reported being dizzy and collapsed at Wayne-Westland's P.D. Graham Elementary School after chugging an entire bottle of hand sanitizer, Fox 17 in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported.
Thinking the youngster was suffering from head trauma because of a bump on her head, Wayne-Westland fire paramedics begun administering intravenous fluids while en route to Mott, according to hometownlife.com.
Doctors told Arndt had emergency crews not gotten fluids in her like they did, “I might be burying my daughter instead of taking her home,” Arndt said.
“The hospital workers had never come across something like this, they’d never seen it in their ER.”
The little girl’s ethanol levels were through the roof. “They were so astounded by the results that they thought they had to be wrong and did the test again," said Arndt.
Lab tests verified what doctors had earlier feared: alcohol poisoning. "The results were what you would see in an adult," Arndt added.
'Strawberry chocolate was her favorite'
Six hours after collapsing, the youngster began to come around. Doctors say ingesting hand sanitizer can produce the same side effects as consuming large amounts of alcohol – slurred speech, unresponsiveness, possibly falling into a coma state, ABC News reported.
“Now it makes sense, she was sobering up,” said Arndt.
Her daughter told her that she had tasted a friend’s hand sanitizer, but she didn’t like it. So she just "moved on to another one,” Arndt said.
After tasting several different flavors, she decided that "strawberry chocolate was her favorite.”
Tonight, her little girl is recovering. “Once it got out of her system.. she was fine,” says Arndt. "She was a little drowsy, but other than that, she’s been perfectly okay, according to Fox 17.
Arndt added: "We don’t know the long-term effects is what I’m kind of more concerned about.”
According to Dr. Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, long-term use could lead to brain, liver and kidney damage, ABC News writes.
Though the shock of learning her very young daughter was intoxicated nearly to the brink of death will no doubt stay with Arndt for some time, she has told her mother she’ll never do it again.
“We do pinkie promises every day,” said Arndt. “It made her dizzy and she didn’t like how it made her feel.”
Now school officials are taking pro-active measures to inform parents about the dangers of hand sanitizer. “My goal now is to let other parents know how dangerous it is,” said Arndt, adding: “Never in a million years would have I imagined..this.”
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