American ASSOCIATION
of poison control centers


HAND SANITIZER

Many hand sanitizers come in brightly colored bottles, can be laced with glitter, and smell like food or candy. This type of packaging makes them very tempting to young children. While a child who licks a tiny amount of hand sanitizer off of his or her hands is unlikely to become sick, a child ingesting any more than a taste of hand sanitizer could be at risk for alcohol poisoning.

The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 40% to 95%. Most hand sanitizer products contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors. By comparison, wine and beer contain about 10-15% and 5-10% alcohol, respectively. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in children. Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest and death.

As of August 31, 2020, poison control centers have managed 15,949 exposure cases about hand sanitizer in children 12 years and younger.

FOR THE MEDIA:

Please cite this data as “National Poison Data System, American Association of Poison Control Centers.” Any and all print, digital, social, or visual media using this data must include the: “You can reach your local poison control center by calling the Poison Help hotline: 1-800-222-1222. To save the number in your mobile phone, text POISON to 797979.” Email media@aapcc.org or call 703-894-1863 for more information, questions, or to submit request data.

PREVENTION TIPS

  1. Hand sanitizers should be kept out of reach of children at all times, and used only with adult supervision.
  2. When using hand sanitizer on yourself or others, apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands and rub hands together until completely dry.
  3. If you suspect your child has ingested hand sanitizer, call the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.

RESOURCES

For more information on preventing exposures to hand sanitizers, read this factsheet on hand sanitizers from the Upstate New York Poison Center.

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Important notes about poison control center data

AAPCC maintains the National Poison Data System (NPDS) , the national database of information logged by the country’s regional poison control centers serving all 50 United States, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and territories. Case records in this database are from self-reported calls: they reflect only information provided when the public or healthcare professionals report an actual or potential exposure to a substance, request information, or request educational materials. As such:
  • AAPCC is not able to completely verify the accuracy of every report made to member centers.
  • Additional exposures may go unreported to poison control centers and data referenced from the AAPCC should not be construed to represent the complete incidence of national exposures to any substance(s).
  • Poison control call volume about any given substance is influenced by the public’s awareness of the hazard or even the Poison Help hotline itself, which are heavily influenced by both social and traditional media coverage.
  • Poison control data are considered preliminary and are subject to change until the dataset for a given year has been locked.
  • AAPCC is continuously working to update the NPDS substance coding taxonomy to better serve the needs of AAPCC members and surveillance partners. As a result, substances may be reclassified within NPDS’ coding hierarchy, and case counts may change. This is particularly true for novel or emerging substances.

The term “exposure” means someone has had contact with the substance in some way; for example, ingested, inhaled, or absorbed a substance by the skin or eyes, etc. Exposures do not necessarily represent poisonings or overdoses.

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