Emails and news stories have surfaced recently alleging that children have developed toxic effects from ingesting small amounts of hand sanitizers off of their hands. These accounts have resulted in questions to poison centers about whether they should be used in schools and other locations where children, and in some cases adults, frequent. While these products can be harmful if children ingest them in large quantities, they are safe when used in the correct amount and for the reason they were made. Most children remain asymptomatic or develop mild symptoms such as oral irritation and gastric upset.
How much hand sanitizer would be dangerous?
A hand sanitizer pump dispenses approximately 2.5 mL of liquid. If one pump of a 62% ethanol-containing hand sanitizer was ingested by an average two-year-old weighing 15kg, a blood alcohol level of 17.3 mg/dL would be expected, considerably below a toxic level of 80-100 mg/dL. This same child would have to drink approximately 4-5 teaspoonfuls of the sanitizer in order to produce toxic effects that would require medical attention.
If you have any concerns regarding hand sanitizers, please call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your calls. These specialists answer poison-related questions about medications, household products and other potentially dangerous substances and can provide poison education materials like brochures and stickers. Poison information is also available at the Texas Poison Center Network website, www.poisoncontrol.org
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