Reports of children becoming intoxicated by ingesting hand sanitizer have risen nearly 400 percent over the last five years, causing major concern for physicians and poison control officials.
When six-year-old Nhaijah Russell swallowed a few squirts of a readily available liquid in his school, she said that it tasted good, like strawberry. What the student didn’t know, however, is that the hand sanitizer she consumed was full of alcohol, enough to make her dangerously intoxicated. According to a report from CNN, she arrived at the emergency room unable to speak or stand up straight.
Poison control center hotlines have reported a whopping 400 percent increase in calls of young children under the age of 12 accidentally consuming hand sanitizer.
According to Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the director of 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.”
Alcohol content in hand sanitizer can range from 45 percent to 95 percent, and ingesting as little as two squirts can lead to severe alcohol poisoning. As a point of reference, a full glass of beer contains an average of 5 percent alcohol.
Nhaijah’s blood alcohol level was .179 after consuming the hand sanitizer, which would render most adults completely unable to drive. The six-year-old was kept overnight at a children’s hospital to monitor for potential brain trauma. The girl fell over and hit her head after ingesting the sanitizer.
In 2010, 3,266 incidents of children ingesting hand sanitizer were reported to poison control centers. By 2014, this number had increased to 16,117 cases. Lopez has asked school districts to restrict access to hand sanitizer in schools, keeping it out of reach or replacing it with products that aren’t alcohol-based.