In what I’ve seen used only as an emergency drink at university parties, more children – especially those in the younger, non-legal-drinking-age demographic – are getting drunk on hand sanitizer.
Since 2010, poison control center hotlines across the United States have seen a nearly 400% increase in calls related to children under 12 years old consuming hand sanitizer, according to new 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,” said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the center’s director.
The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 45-95%, meaning a few squirts is enough for alcohol poisoning risks. To put that alcoholic content into perspective, wine and beer contain 12% and 5% alcohol, respectively. Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in some severe cases, a child can stop breathing.
Lopez said 3,266 hand sanitizer cases related to young children were reported to poison control centers in 2010. In 2014, the number increased to a whopping 16,117 cases.
There’s a myriad of reasons kids are choosing sanitizer over their Capri Suns. Some cases are the results of a friend’s dare; some think it looks tasty; most are just looking to get drunk innocuously.
“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.”
Parents and teachers should keep a close eye on any sanitizer supply, or consider non-alcohol based products or sanitizing wipes as an alternative.