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A Crazy Number Of Kids Are Getting Sick From Drinking Hand Sanitizers


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


So fresh and so clean. Andrew Braithwaite/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Hand sanitizers were designed to be another guardian of public health and a hero of our bubble-wrapped, sterilized world. For all their good intentions, it looks like they could be causing a whole new public health hazard instead.

new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) found that over a three-year period, 70,669 kids in the US aged 12 or under fell ill as a direct result of hand sanitizer. The data comes from reports given to Poison Control centers across the US between 2011 and 2014. The vast majority of cases were due to kids drinking it, with over 62,000 cases, which the CDCP says is probably because the added fruity scent appeal to children. Over 92 percent of the cases were also in relation to alcohol-based sanitizers. These types of hand sanitizers, as opposed to the other non-alcohol based ones, also came with the nastiest side effects.


As you can imagine, the results of drinking something designed to scourge bacteria isn’t too healthy for your insides. Many of the kids who had a run-in with the hand sanitizers experienced vomiting, irritation, pain, and red eyes. Five kids even fell into comas, three had seizures, two had respiratory depression, and two experienced hypoglycemia.

Out of all the cases, 944 said they had ingested it intentionally. The huge bulk of these (906 cases) came from the older kids in the age 6-12 years bracket, which the report says is an indicator “that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers.”

Kids today, eh? A few years ago there were reports of a “growing trend” of teenagers getting drunk on hand sanitizer. Buzzfeed News reported as far back as in 2012 that there have been numerous accounts of teenagers across the US ending up in A&E after drinking hand sanitizer, attempting to get a buzz from the alcohol. At the time, Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Feist also released a statement saying adolescents were mixing the hand sanitizers with alcohol-based mouthwash to make a “strong cocktail.” 

So, moral of the story – if you have kids, keep your alcohol sanitizers out of hand's reach and perhaps consider not having sanitizers with scented flavors or appealing colors. And if you’re just looking for a cheap high, maybe just wait until you're old enough to buy beer, sanitizing hygiene products definitely aren't the way to go.


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