Kids Are Drinking Hand Sanitizer at an Alarming Rate

hand sanitizerOrigination Nes/Shutterstock; design by Anne Meadows

It's flu (and everything else) season, and my children are probably glopping hand sanitizer on their little paws as I write this. However, in what is sure to be an unhappy newsflash for parents everywhere, a new government report reveals that an alarming number of young kids are drinking hand sanitizer. And even worse? A lot of them are doing it on purpose. 

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UGH.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this scary trend has been on an uptick since 2005, but there's been a big spike in recent years. From 2011 to 2014, there were 65,000 reported incidents of children under age 12 ingesting hand sanitizers, which, as you know, most often contains 60 to 95 percent alcohol. Most of these reports involved little ones aged 5 and under, but, as the CDC notes, the 6,000 kids in the 6 to 12 year age group were old enough to know what they were doing.

So, yeah, those kids are probably drinking it on purpose. And, keep in mind, this is only looking at what was reported to poison control centers. 

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According to the CDC, kids who lick, drink, or otherwise consume hand sanitizer are at risk of becoming ill with a variety of maladies (as one can imagine), such as vomiting, eye irritation, cough, and abdominal pain. Also, depending on the amount consumed, drinking this stuff can have even more severe results. The agency noted that five kids fell into a coma, three experienced seizures, and two had to deal with respiratory depression.

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It's really no surprise that these sorts of incidents seem to increase during regular school months, as reported by the CDC. If you think back to your child's back-to-school supply list, it's likely that hand sanitizer was one of the requested items. In other words, it's all over the place at our kids' schools.

Plus, I don't know about your experience, but hand sanitizer is kinda trendy now among the kids I know. Places like Bath and Body Works sell these completely adorable little hand sanitizers that pop into similarly cute tiny holders. Look at them. Just look at them!

On top of the fact that they are delightful to behold, they also come in a variety of awesome scents, from green apple to orange to raspberry. Some have glitter, and there are a million different colors. Even "regular" hand sanitizer like Purell has gotten in on the game, with pretty designs and delicious-sounding scents.

How are we to combat the compelling scents and shiny colors of an alluring bottle of hand sanitizer, then?

Well, the good news is that the majority of kids who are chomping up hand sanitizer are young enough that proper supervision and keeping it out of reach will greatly reduce the problem at your house. Older kids in that 6 to 12 year age group are more at risk, partially because they're often at school where hand sanitizer bottles seem to reproduce like rabbits.

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It's probably prudent to tell your kids that no matter how awesome hand sanitizer smells or how fun they look, there will be no licking of the goop after dropping some on their tiny hands. If you know your child seems more interested in the culinary delights of hand sanitizer rather than its germ-killing abilities, dash a note off to his or her teacher to be on the lookout for your little sanitizer eater.

Good old-fashioned handwashing is the best, but hand sanitizer is great when there's no soap or clean running water. However, it sure makes sense to keep an eye on where it's going -- only on hands, no matter how sweet and delicious it smells! 

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