The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new warning to parents and caregivers to be aware of children drinking hand sanitizers — sometimes on purpose.
The caution comes with a new CDC report released March 3 that found 70,669 cases of children younger than 12 exposed to sanitizer poisoning from 2011 to 2014.
About 90 percent of those exposures happened among children younger than 5, and most of them drank hand sanitizers made with alcohol.
The report also includes concern about the potential of abuse among older children for whom misuse seemed to correlate with the school year and flu season.
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“The majority of intentional exposures to alcohol hand sanitizers occurred in children aged 6-12 years,” the CDC report said. “Alcohol hand sanitizer exposures were associated with worse outcomes than were non-alcohol hand sanitizer exposures.”
Very few of the cases reported by 55 poison treatment centers across the country to the National Poison Data System involved serious injury. But both alcoholic and non-alcoholic sanitizers can cause adverse effects, the CDC said.
“Hand sanitizers are effective and inexpensive products that can reduce microorganisms on the skin, but ingestion or improper use can be associated with health risks,” the CDC report states. “Many hand sanitizers contain up to 60% - 95% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol by volume, and are often combined with scents that might be appealing to young children.
“Recent reports have identified serious consequences, including apnea, acidosis, and coma in young children who swallowed alcohol-based (alcohol) hand sanitizer.”
The CDC advises caregivers and health care providers to watch for improper use among children.
“Increased parental or teacher supervision might be needed while using alcohol hand sanitizer products, especially for older children who might be abusing these products during the school year.” the CDC wrote.
Poison control centers warned parents last year that a growing number of children were getting drunk by drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizers - and showing up in emergency rooms.
They advised parents to alert to their children carrying large bottles of sanitizer in their backpacks or purses.