Whether its for fun, because they think it tastes good, or because of a dare, kids are drinking hand sanitizer. According to a recent analysis by the Georgia Poison Center, poison control hotlines have experienced an increase of nearly 400% for cases relating to children under 12 ingesting the liquid soap since 2010.
“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, director of the poison center. The alcohol percentage in hand sanitizers range from 45% to 95%, so even consuming small amounts can cause alcohol poisoning. In comparison, wine and beer only consist of about 12% and 5% alcohol, says Lopez.
In one case, six year old Nhaijah Russell drank three or four squirts of the pleasant smelling liquid. She thought it tasted good, like strawberry, reports CNN. However it also contained enough alcohol to make her dangerously drunk, giving her a blood alcohol level of .179, which is twice the level that’s considered legally drunk for adults. By the time she arrived at the emergency room at Gwinnett Medical Center near Atlanta, she was slurring her words and unable to walk. Doctors had to watch her overnight at a nearby children’s hospital for signs of brain trauma, since her inebriated state had caused her to fall and hit her head earlier in the day.
“That was very scary,” said Nhaijah’s mother, Ortoria Scott. “It could have been very lethal for my child.”
Lopez sent a letter to Georgia’s school systems warning them about the dangers of ingesting hand sanitizer, explaining that some children do it intentionally for the purpose of getting drunk, while others may do it because a friends dares them to, and some may just do it because it looks and smells appetizing. He recommends that parents and teachers keep the hand sanitizer out of reach and to monitor its use. Furthermore he suggested using foam or non-alcohol based products, and that sanitizing wipes can be used instead.
“A kid is not thinking this is bad for them. 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.” Lopez explained.