Recently, the internet was buzzing with reports of a
child who became intoxicated after "licking" some
hand sanitizer. Could this be true?
A lick of hand sanitizer will not be fatal to a child or
anyone else. It does contain alcohol and so should be
stored, like other potential poisons, out of sight and
out of reach. Should a child actually drink some, call to
the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.
Hand sanitizer is not more dangerous than other
sources of alcohol in a child's environment. You
wouldn't let a child have easy access to beer, wine,
liquor, or rubbing alcohol. Also, a child should not
have access to mouthwash, facial toner, or hair tonics
that contain alcohol.
There are two immediate problems with children and
alcohol. The first is that it can lower their blood sugar.
In extreme, untreated situations, that can lead to coma
and seizures. That's why the first treatment instruction
after a child drinks alcohol, from any source, is to give
something sweet to drink. Then, the poison center
staff will calculate the amount of alcohol swallowed
compared to the child's body weight. If it's really too
much, the child will be sent to the emergency
department so that breathing problems won't occur.
The second problem is that it can make kids drunk.
That doesn't just mean woozy; it means slow heart
rate and breathing.
BUT, a lick of hand sanitizer will not do this. A child
would need to drink from the bottle and would
probably quickly vomit (because alcohol and soap
irritate the stomach).
So, the bottom line with hand sanitizer: it should be
kept out of reach. A lick won't hurt or kill anyone, even
a child. If a child does get into some hand sanitizer (or
anything else), do the prudent thing and call the
poison center at 1-800-222-1222 right away. You'll get
good advice and can stop worrying about "what if".