Thousands of kids in the U.S. have gotten sick by both intentionally and unintentionally drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the study, CDC researchers analyzed National Poison Data System statistics from 2011 to 2014, and found 70,669 children younger than 12 had either ingested or gotten alcohol-based hand sanitizers into their eyes. More than 8,000 of those cases resulted in adverse health effects including abdominal pain and vomiting. There were also five cases of coma.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are readily available at retail stores across the country. They are often infused with scents, which can make them attractive to young children. But more concerning is that children aged 6 to 12 were more likely to report intentional ingestion and experience adverse health effects with worse outcomes than younger kids, suggesting that these children might be deliberately consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizers to get high.
These products often contain about 60 to 95 percent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol by volume. Those who consume the products can literally get drunk. They can also get sick. More alarming is that the rate of children exposed to hand sanitizers has been increasing in recent years, according to the CDC.
The use of hand sanitizers has also increased in recent years with numerous public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, providing hand sanitizer dispensers for public use. Some schools request that children bring their own hand sanitizers to school. A 2015 study found that among 385 teenagers who admitted to ingesting hand sanitizers, 35 percent said they did so at school.
Researchers say that while hand sanitizers may be effective, a good hand washing with regular soap and water is just as effective.