Hand sanitizer can be a good way for kids to kill germs on their hands when soap and water aren’t available. But some youngsters are swallowing sanitizer, which can be dangerous.
Over the past five years, U.S. poison control centers have received nearly 85,000 calls about children drinking hand sanitizer. The number of calls increased almost 400% from 2010 to 2013.
Some hand sanitizers contain alcohol with concentrations ranging from 45% to 95%. It is the same alcohol found in beer, wine and other liquors. Drinking just two or three squirts can lead to alcohol poisoning, which causes confusion, vomiting, slow breathing, low body temperature or a bluish skin color. Anyone with alcohol poisoning needs medical help right away.
Some kids drink sanitizer to get drunk or on a dare from friends. Others drink sanitizer because it looks or smells tasty.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and teachers use the same caution with hand sanitizer as with any other possibly poisonous item.
Here are some tips from poison centers to keep kids safe:
- Store hand sanitizer out of children’s reach. Although a lick of sanitizer probably won’t make kids sick, they could swallow enough to cause alcohol poisoning.
- Always monitor the use of sanitizer. Put a dime-sized amount on dry hands and have children rub their hands together until completely dry. Make sure youths do not put hands wet with sanitizer in their mouth.
- Teach kids the right way to use sanitizer, so they use it safely in school or public places.
- Consider using non-alcohol based products or sanitizing wipes.
- If a child drinks sanitizer, immediately call the poison help line at 800-222-1222.
The good news is that hand sanitizer works to kill germs on hands. Just make sure it is stored out of children’s reach and is used according to the label.