Here’s a warning you don’t hear often: Never, ever drink hand sanitizer. It seems like a no brainer, but in recent years, more and more people have been consuming hand sanitizer to get drunk. But instead of a buzz, they got a trip to the emergency room instead.
From CBS News to Newsweek, stories have been popping up about the deadly trend.1 2 In a New York Times piece, a banker even admitted to doing it on the job. The goal? To reduce stress, something alcohol is known for.3
Dangers Of Drinking Hand Sanitizer: Alcohol Toxicity
Alcohol is the active ingredient of hand sanitizer. It kills bacteria and germs, giving your hands a quick clean-up. And while nothing beats good old soap and water, hand sanitizer is useful when there isn’t’ a sink nearby.
Yet, that alcohol also makes it dangerous. Hand sanitizer can have anywhere from 40 to 95 percent ethyl alcohol! Most contain 60 percent, which is stronger than many hard liquors. Beer only has 5 to 10 percent, while wine only has 10 to 15 percent. Hand sanitizer is literally 6 times more potent than these alcoholic drinks.4
Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning
As you can imagine, the risk for alcohol poisoning is high. Below are signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Mental confusion
- Coma, inability to wake up
- Slow breathing
- Irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
- Paleness, bluish skin color5
If you think someone has ingested hand sanitizer, call 911 or your local poison control center ASAP. Never wait until symptoms start, because it can be a matter of life or death.6
A Bigger Threat For Children
Consuming hand sanitizer is an even bigger problem for little kids. From January to October 2017, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 15,649 hand sanitizer exposures in children! All of the kids were 12 years old or younger.
Unlike the cases involving adults, the staggering statistic for children isn’t surprising. Just take a look at commercial hand sanitizers in stores. Many are bright, glittery, and smell like candy. For a little kid, it looks just like a sweet treat.
With such a high alcohol content, hand sanitizer is deadlier for tiny humans. Even just a taste can bring on alcohol poisoning.7
How To Prevent Hand Sanitizer Poisoning In Children
1. Put It Out Of Reach
At home, store hand sanitizer on a high shelf. Lock it up if you must! If you keep hand sanitizer in your bag, be mindful of where you set it down. Kids have curious little hands.
2. Keep It Simple
The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles recommends ditching the colorful, sweet smelling hand sanitizer. Avoid anything with glitter and playful prints. Instead, buy clear hand sanitizer in a simple bottle.8
3. Use With Adult Supervision
When using hand sanitizer, make sure you or another adult is present. Only use a pea-sized amount. Teach your child to rub until it is completely dry, and never let them lick their hands.9
|↑1||Drinking hand sanitizer sends Calif. teens to hospital drunk, doctors warn. CBS News.|
|↑2||Drinking Hand Sanitizer For A Cheap And Deadly Buzz. Newsweek.|
|↑3||Voices From Wells Fargo: ‘I Thought I was Having a Heart Attack’ New York Times.|
|↑4, ↑6, ↑9||Hand Sanitizer. American Association of Poison Control Centers.|
|↑5||Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.|
|↑7||Hand Sanitizer. American Association of Poison Control Centers.|
|↑8||The Dirt on Hand Sanitizer Safety. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.|