If you live or interact with children on a regular basis, you might want to be aware of a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report with some scary statistics. According to data reported by poison control centers to the National Poison Data System, kids ingested hand sanitizer over 70,000 times between 2011 and 2014.
92% of these incidents involved products made with alcohol, which have the most dangerous consequences. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic sanitizers, though, had negative effects on kids. The most frequent were eye irritation and vomiting, but conjunctivitis, mouth irritation, coughing, and stomach aches were also common. The most frightening accounts were of two children who stopped breathing normally, three who had seizures, and five who went into comas, WPTV reports.
The authors suggest that hand sanitizers might appeal to young children because of their scents, and older children may be "deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers." They were more likely to say they'd consumed them intentionally and suffered from more health problems as a result.
The problem among older children was especially pronounced during the school year, possibly because this time range includes flu season. Some kids carry hand sanitizer to prevent illness, and some schools even require their students to do so.
The FDA has banned 19 chemicals in antibacterial soaps — including triclosan, which has been linked to the growth of breast cancer cells — but the same ones are allowed in hand sanitizers and wipes, according to the report. So, if you're looking to minimize health risks around a kid, you may be better off leaving regular soap out. Plus, soap actually does a better job killing bacteria, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"Hand washing with soap and water is the recommended method of hand hygiene in non–health care settings," the report reads. "If soap and water are not available, use of a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is suggested. Other options, such as nonalcohol hand sanitizers or wipes, can be used if soap and water or alcohol hand sanitizers are not available or practical."