Home Emergency Management News CDC: Children Misusing Or Abusing Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

CDC: Children Misusing Or Abusing Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers


By Kimberly Arsenault
Contributor, EDM Digest

A recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals adverse health effects to children from the ingestion of hand sanitizers, including seizures and comas.

The CDC report covers a period in the United States from 2011-2014 and includes intentional and unintentional ingestion of the products, which often have high levels of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol -- in amounts that range anywhere from 60 to 95 percent of the product. Ingestion may be occurring because children may also be enticed by the variety of scents added to the product by manufacturers.

According to data collected, a total of 70,669 children under the age of 12 had gotten hand sanitizer in their eyes or had ingested the product. Over 95 percent of the reported cases involved ingestion, with a majority of the ingestions of older children being reported as intentional. The highest rate of intentionally ingested hand sanitizer involved those products containing alcohol - and of the reported ingestion cases, 65,293 cases involved a majority of children under the age of 12 exposed primarily to the alcohol-based product. Only 5,396 cases included non-alcohol based product exposure.

Hand Sanitizer Adverse Effects

The findings suggest that the intentional drinking of the product by children aged six to 12 is done for the product's alcoholic affects. Of these ingestions, over 8,000 cases resulted in adverse health effects for the children involved. Adverse health effects included symptoms such as drowsiness, abdominal pain, and vomiting, with three reported cases of seizures and five cases where comas resulted.

Findings in the report suggest that the product is being misused or abused by older children under the age of 12 and the best replacement is soap and water for hand washing.  When hand sanitizers are used in place of soap and water, the CDC is advocating for their safe use and recommendations include adult supervision during use, the use of proper child-safety precautions, and storing the product out of the reach of children when not in use.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.