Poison control centers have seen a nearly 400 percent jump in calls related to children under 12 ingesting hand sanitizer since 2010, according to CNN. Calls increased from 3,266 in 2010 to 16,117 last year.
The findings come from an analysis by 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,” Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the center’s director, told CNN.
The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer can vary from 45 percent to 95 percent, the article notes. In contrast, wine contains about 12 percent alcohol, while beer contains about 5 percent. In some cases, ingesting as little as two to three squirts of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning.
A child with alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizer can experience confusion, vomiting and drowsiness. A child with a severe case of alcohol poisoning can stop breathing.
Lopez sent a letter last week to Georgia’s school systems to warn them about the danger. He said children ingest hand sanitizer for a variety of reasons. They may be trying to get drunk, doing it on a dare, or drinking it because it looks like it would taste good.
“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.”
He advises parents and teachers to store hand sanitizer in a place where children cannot reach it, and monitor its use. Sanitizing wipes or non-alcohol based products are alternatives to hand sanitizers, Lopez noted.