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article imageHealth alert — Children getting drunk on hand sanitizer

By Karen Graham     Sep 14, 2015 in Health
Hand sanitizers have been touted as the next best thing to soap and water for cleaning our hands and getting rid of harmful germs. But one frightening downside to these sanitizers is the danger they pose to children who ingest them.
A six-year-old child swallowed three or four squirts of strawberry scented hand sanitizer not long ago, and ended up in the emergency room. Little Nhaijah Russell said she thought the stuff "tasted good."
The hand sanitizer also contained enough alcohol to make her stumbling around drunk. By the time she had arrived at the emergency room, she was slurring her words and unable to walk. She was lucky because someone, an adult, was around, according to WGNtv.com.
Since 2010, poison control hotlines have seen a nearly 400 percent increase in the incidence of calls related to children under the age of 12 drinking hand sanitizer, according to the Georgia Poison Center. Kids are getting into these products more frequently, and unfortunately, there's a percentage of them going to the emergency room," said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the center's director.
Dr. Lopez explained that the amount of alcohol in hand sanitizers ranges from 45 to 95 percent. Ingesting even small amounts, as little as two or three squirts, can cause alcohol poisoning in a child. In contrast, a bottle of beer usually contains 12 to 15 percent alcohol by volume.
Dr. Chris Ritchey treated Nhaijah Russell in the emergency room at Gwinnett Medical Center near Atlanta. Her blood alcohol level was .179, twice what is considered to be legally drunk in an adult. The child was transferred to a children's hospital and kept overnight to be observed for brain trauma because the alcohol in her system had caused her to fall and hit her head.
Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting, and drowsiness, and in severe cases, the child can stop breathing, or even die, reports USFoodSafety.com. "That was very scary," Nhaijah's mother, Ortoria Scott, said. "It could have been very lethal for my child."
Lopez also said that in 2010, there were 3,266 hand sanitizer cases related to young children reported in the U.S. In 2014, the number of cases had jumped to 16,117 cases. A scary new development is the number of children purposely drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, or drinking it after being challenged to a dare.
Last week, Lopez sent a letter to school districts in Georgia, warning about the dangers hand sanitizers pose to children. “A kid is not thinking this is bad for them,” Lopez said. “A lot of the more attractive (hand sanitizers) are the ones that are scented. There are strawberry, grape, orange-flavored hand sanitizers that are very appealing to kids.”
Dr. Lopez recommends hand sanitizers be stored out of the reach of children. He mentioned there are also non-alcoholic liquids and wipes that can be used. Some people think an even better idea would be to throw the hand sanitizers away and teach your children how to wash their hands with soap and water.
More about Hand sanitizer, alcohol content, Alcohol poisoning, dangers to children, increase in cases
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