LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A recent update from the Centers for Disease Control says 70,699 reports came into poison control hotlines over a five-year span for children ingesting liquid hand sanitizer.
They're easy to pick up at grocery store check-outs and have become required items for germaphobes everywhere, but the numbers have the CDC warning that that convenience and pleasant smell makes them just as easily grabbed by little kids.
“When they come into the classroom hand washing is the first thing they do,” said Patricia Wren, or “Miss Pat” to her three to four year olds at the Child Development Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
She is in a constant effort to stay ahead of the next sniffle or sneeze. Hand sanitizer can help, but the liquid inside is mostly alcohol. Now, as hand sanitizer use has picked up, the number of cases of kids picking it up and drinking the stuff has shot up.
“This is now another thing that we have to be concerned about,” said Joe Schaffner, the outreach coordinator for the Injury Prevention Center at ACH. “This is another unintentional poisoning that we have to keep track of on top of the liquid nicotine and the dishwasher detergent packs.”
The latest numbers from the CDC say that the great majority of the calls to poison control came after children 5 and under accidentally drinking it or rubbing it in their eyes. With some labels showing Disney princesses or super heroes, it’s easy to see why kids would pick them up. The smell and color then can lead to taking a swig.
In most cases, it leads to stomach problems and vomiting. A small number of children between ages 6-12 have been known to drink sanitizer to get drunk. Those poisonings can lead to more serious injuries or illnesses. Experts say a call to a poison control center is the right move if a child drinks the product.
Child care professionals are urged to use common sense solutions.
“It just comes down to due diligence on the caregiver and the parent's part,” Schaffner said. “Supervision and then putting it up and away when it's not in use.”
Jody Veit-Edrington is the chairperson of a state board that oversees daycare centers and says facilities in Arkansas are graded on how well they keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children along with other safety precautions.