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Hand Sanitizer Poisoning Surges

The Poison Control Centers have seen a 70 percent increase in calls about hand sanitizers. They received 21,074 cases from January 1 to August 2. That is 12,426 more cases than they had during the same time frame in 2019!

Even more alarming is the large number of children’s exposure cases. As of July 31, 2020, the Poison Control Centers have managed 12,687 cases about hand sanitizer in children 12 years and younger.

Most hand sanitizers contain over 60% alcohol. That is a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause poisoning in a child. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning are confusion, vomiting and drowsiness. In severe cases, it may cause respiratory arrest and death.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a warning about a long list of hand sanitizers that may contain methanol (methyl alcohol). Methanol has a long history of severe toxicity and this led to the term “blind drunk”. This is due to the potential of damage to the optic nerve. Ingestion of these products may be extremely dangerous with toxicity including coma, respiratory depression, seizures, blindness and death. They are warning consumers to avoid using these products, and to dispose of them carefully.

The FDA reminds everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then they say you may use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol.

Ladies and gentlemen, you need to remember that many of these hand sanitizers come in brightly colored bottles, and some smell like food or candy. This type of packaging can be very attractive to children. Unless a child really understands the risk of handling these products, all hand sanitizers need to be kept out of their reach.

Call me old fashioned, but I think I’ll stick with good ol’ soap and water